Johnson & Johnson was hit with a multi-billion dollar talcum powder verdict on Thursday, one that marked one of the largest product liability verdicts in the nation’s history.
The company was ordered to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families, who claimed asbestos in their products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Most of the women in the suit had used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, though some had used Shower-to-Shower, another one of the company’s talc-based products.
The jury awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who all alleged that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers about the risks of cancer associated with its well-known talc powders.
Held in a St. Louis, Missouri circuit court, the six-week trial resulted in a jury deliberating for eight hours but determining the punitive damages in just 45 minutes. Most all of the women were in the courtroom when the verdict was read, minus at least the six women who had already died of ovarian cancer and one who was too sick from chemotherapy to attend. The women are from states all over the country, including Arizona, California, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The verdict had an immediate impact on Johnson & Johnson’s shares, which fell 1.4 percent by the very next morning.
This verdict is just one of more than 9,000 claims linking asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder to ovarian cancer. The women in this particular case also sued a unit of Imerys SA, a company that supplied the talc to Johnson & Johnson. Imerys Talc America, however, settled with the women before trial on confidential terms.
This is not the first trial that Johnson & Johnson has faced in St. Louis for ovarian cancer claims. In fact, the company lost four of the first five cases that have gone to trial. The company is also dealing with another issue of plaintiffs blaming their talc products for causing mesothelioma, a type of cancer that usually affects the lungs.
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