Jury orders J&J to pay $4.7 bln in Missouri asbestos cancer case
(Reuters) - A Missouri jury yesterday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.
The company is battling some 9,000 talc cases. J&J denies both that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.
Thursday’s massive verdict, handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.
J&J in a statement called the trial “fundamentally unfair” and said it would appeal the decision.
J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in afterhours trading following the punitive damages award. They had risen $1.52 during regular trading.
The jury’s decision followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts on both sides.
The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.
“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process,” the company said in a statement. The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” J&J added, saying that it would pursue all available appellate remedies.
J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.