Johnson & Johnson hit with $4.7B verdict in baby powder lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson hit with $4.7B verdict in baby powder lawsuit

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

J&J dropped 1.4 per cent in late trading after closing at US$127.76 in NY.

Goodrich said the verdict awarding all the women the same amount despite differences in their circumstances showed evidence in the case was overwhelmed by prejudice created when so many plaintiffs are allowed to sue the company in one lawsuit.

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 USA government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe.

More than 9,000 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson due to allegations of health problems caused by asbestos in its talcum powder products.

Six of the 22 plaintiffs in the latest trial have died from ovarian cancer. A jury found Johnson & Johnson negligent but did not award damages to the plaintiff.

The company has had a better record with judges than juries in the ovarian cancer cases.

After a brief punitive phase Thursday afternoon, jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before handing down their $4.14 billion punitive award.

Mark Lanier, the Houston-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented jurors with internal company documents revealing Johnson & Johnson knew of the asbestos in its products and failed to warn consumers.

Because of this, the women say, they developed ovarian cancer.

Pharmaceutical companies use talc to produce talcum powder, among other products. Scientists presented evidence that the tissue with the ovarian cancer cells contained asbestos and talc particles.

"Some (of the plaintiffs) are truly on their death bed and fighting for every day of their lives, and several of them came back for the jury verdict and were hugging the necks of those jurors", said Lanier.

The company has, since then, been sued by thousands of women and in August 2017, it was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay damages of Dollars 417 million to a hospital receptionist, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson's Baby Powder for decades. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues.

For decades, talcum powder has been used on babies.

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. Cramer, who at one point advised J&J to put a warning on its products, has become a frequent expert witness for women suing the company.