Jury or­ders J&J to pay $4.69 bil­lion in talc cancer case

Oman Daily Observer - - BUSINESS -

NEW YORK: A Mis­souri jury 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 per cent, to $126.45 in af­ter-hours 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 US Supreme Court that lim­its where per­sonal in­jury law­suits can be filed.

Of the 22 women in the St Louis trial, 17 were from out­side Mis­souri, a state gen­er­ally re­garded as friendly to­wards plain­tiffs. The prac­tice of com­bin­ing plain­tiffs in such ju­ris­dic­tions, com­monly crit­i­cised as “fo­rum shop­ping” by defendants, will be chal­lenged on ap­peal.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, in a state­ment fol­low­ing the ver­dict called on J&J to pull its talc prod­ucts from the mar­ket “be­fore caus­ing fur­ther an­guish, harm, and death from a ter­ri­ble dis­ease.”

“If J&J in­sists on con­tin­u­ing to sell talc, they should mark it with a se­ri­ous warn­ing,” Lanier said.

The ma­jor­ity of the law­suits that J&J faces in­volve claims that talc it­self caused ovar­ian cancer, but a smaller num­ber of cases al­lege that con­tam­i­nated talc caused me­sothe­lioma, a tis­sue cancer closely linked to as­bestos ex­po­sure.

The cases that went to trial in St Louis ef­fec­tively com­bine those claims by al­leg­ing as­bestos-con­tam­i­nated talc caused ovar­ian cancer.

Pre­vi­ous talc tri­als have pro­duced ver­dicts as large as $417 million. But that 2017 ver­dict by a Cal­i­for­nia jury, as well as other ver­dicts in Mis­souri, was over­turned on ap­peal, and chal­lenges to at least an­other five ver­dicts are pend­ing.

The US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mis­sioned a study of var­i­ous talc sam­ples from 2009 to 2010, in­clud­ing of J&J’S Baby Pow­der. No as­bestos was found in any of the talc sam­ples, the agency said.

But Lanier dur­ing the trial told jurors that the agency and other lab­o­ra­to­ries and J&J have used flawed test­ing meth­ods that did not al­low for the proper de­tec­tion of as­bestos fibers.

The ver­dict is the largest J&J has faced to date over al­le­ga­tions that its talc-based prod­ucts cause cancer

— Reuters

A bot­tle of John­son’s Baby Pow­der is seen in a photo il­lus­tra­tion taken in New York.

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