Johnson & Johnson lost a major talcum powder lawsuit last week when a Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion – including $4.14 solely in punitive damages — to 22 women who claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by the use of the company’s talc powder products.
In six cases, the talc verdict award goes to next of kin because the women died before the end of the trial.
After six weeks of testimony, it only took a St. Louis jury eight hours to award $550 million in compensatory damages and 45 minutes to award $4.14 billion in punitive damages to the women who accused the company of failing to warn them about the cancer risks of two particular products, Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower To Shower powder.
“For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products,” said Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the women and their families, in a statement. “We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer.”
“The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease. J&J sells the same powders in a marvelously safe corn starch variety,” Lanier’s statement reads. “If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning.”
A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson – which has denied that its products contain any asbestos or cause ovarian cancer — said the company would appeal the verdict.
Of course they’re going to appeal. They have to. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in body talcum powder lawsuits, according to a regulatory document filed this spring. If you do the math, and the awards are anywhere close to this St. Louis jury’s, Johnson & Johnson is facing close to $192 trillion in damages.
That is so much more than they can sustain and it could signal the coming of multiple settlements rather than risk the jury awards.
Johnson & Johnson has been successful, however, in a number of appeals, including a $417 million jury verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court last year that has been overturned.