Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 bn damages in talc cancer case

Friday, 13 Jul, 2018

A jury in the USA state of Missouri has awarded $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson (J&J) talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer.

A jury in the U.S. state of Missouri initially awarded $550m in compensation and added $4.1bn in punitive damages.

J&J knew its talc products were contaminated with asbestos and kept this information from reaching the public, Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs' lawyer told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday.

In the trial that went on for six weeks, the women said that they developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc products for decades.

During closing arguments, Johnson & Johnson lawyer Peter Bicks said the company for years has exceeded industry standards in testing talcum powder for asbestos and cited several scientific studies and conclusions by United States government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe.

"If there were a link, any increase in risk would be fairly small, and as ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease, overall women who use talc would still have a low chance of developing the disease".

J&J faces lawsuits from customers who say they were harmed by both its talc and transvaginal mesh products.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company was disappointed with yesterday's verdict but would not comment further until the punitive damages are announced. J&J sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said. However, the company said it will be appealing the result.

Johnson & Johnson has been hit with its biggest penalty yet over the allegation that its talcum powders cause cancer.

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the decision.

And according to the National Cancer Institute, claims that talc used for feminine hygiene purposes can be absorbed by the reproductive system and cause inflammation in the ovaries are not supported by "the weight of evidence". Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas.

The case is linked to more than 9,000 claims that its products are linked to ovarian cancer.

The company's products don't contain asbestos and don't cause ovarian cancer, she said. "But sympathy aside, the plaintiffs have not come anywhere close to proving their case".

However, a judge later overturned that verdict and several other legal challenges by J&J are yet to be decided. Asbestos, a well-known cancer-causing agent, is often mined near talc.

Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state generally regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs.