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13 July 2018, 07:42 | Randall Craig
Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7bn damages in talc cancer case
Johnson & Johnson must pay at least US$200-million in damages to women who claimed asbestos in the company's talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer, a St. Louis, Mo., jury said on Thursday.
After announcing that award, the jury deliberated further and added $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Lanier told the jurors this case was the first where jurors saw documents showing that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn't warn consumers.
The company said its talc does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer, and vowed it would 'pursue all available appellate remedies'. "That may be a harbinger of things to come and there are many more ovarian cancer cases than asbestos cases tied to the powder".
The $4.69 billion award is the largest jury award in the United States this year, Bloomberg reported. On Thursday, Lanier highlighted results he said showed asbestos both in talc mines and the baby powder itself.
The firm said it would appeal the verdict and described the proceedings as "unfair".
The verdict is the largest the company has faced to date over allegations that its products, including baby powder, cause cancer. Already, Johnson & Johnson is reeling from the decision; its stock is down almost 3% in premarket trading.
The talc wasn't harmless, plaintiff Toni Roberts, 61, said in an interview after the verdict. Bicks asked. "Does that make common sense, when Johnson & Johnson is doing all this testing?" Berg claimed that she turned down a settlement of United States dollars 1.3 million from the company and instead wanted it to put warning stickers on their products.
The women and their families said decades-long use of baby powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases.
Punitive damages are often reduced by the trial judge or on appeal, and J&J has succeeded in having several jury verdicts overturned, some of them on technical grounds.
It is highly unlikely the plaintiffs will keep an amount anywhere close to judgment award.
The case is Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, 1522-CC10417, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri. Several other cases have involved sizeable damages, including a $417 million verdict reached by jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court previous year.
J&J is also fighting a separate battle with plaintiffs who blame the company's talc products for their developing mesothelioma, a form of cancer generally found in the lungs, that is linked to asbestos exposure.
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