Medicine

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talcum powder lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talcum powder lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson must pay US$4.14 billion (RM16.68 billion) in punitive damages to women who claimed asbestos in the company's talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

According to the victims' lawyer, Mark Lanier, a jury composed of six men and six women in St Louis, Missouri, ruled in favor of the women after a six-week trial and eight hours of deliberation.

The company has been sued by more than 9,000 women who claim its talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer.

St. Louis-Jurors Thursday slammed Johnson & Johnson with a $4.69 billion verdict, including more than $4.1 billion in punitives, for the role they concluded the company played in the ovarian cancer 22 women developed after years of using its talc-based products. Those plaintiffs will receive money from the $550 million in compensatory damages.

The verdict Thursday by jurors in St. Louis city court came in the first test of plaintiffs' claims of an asbestos-ovarian cancer link in use of J&J's iconic baby powder.

The jury has yet to decide on punitive damages.

However, Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women suing, said both the agency and the company used flawed testing methods, preventing them from detecting the possible presence of asbestos fibers.

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had earlier - from 2009 to 2010 - commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples. Six of the 22 plaintiffs have died from ovarian cancer, including two from Missouri.

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"The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease", he added.

The plaintiff's lawyer stated that J&J should pull their baby powder from the shelves "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a awful disease". The company, which has successfully overturned previous cases, denies its talc products contain asbestos that caused ovarian cancer and plans to appeal the case.

"The evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding".

"J&J has strong arguments, but unless they get to certify this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which are very long odds, this decision is likely to stand", said Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida.

During Wednesday's closings, Orrick's Peter Bicks walked jurors through studies he said proved the company's talc was asbestos-free. A New Jersey couple was awarded $117 million after after the husband claimed the J&J powder he inhaled gave him mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

But several legal experts said Missouri courts, including at the appellate and supreme court level, were historically plaintiff-friendly and could prove unreceptive to J&J's arguments.

The trial is one of many proceedings CVN has recorded in Missouri, California, and SC state courts as part of its extensive talc litigation coverage.

Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.