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16 March 2019, 02:11 | Joann Bryant
Woman awarded $29m in damages in Johnson & Johnson cancer case
The jury found Johnson & Johnson had failed to warn consumers of the health risks of its defective products and awarded $29.4 million in damages to Terry Leavitt and her husband.
In a statement, the company said it was disappointed in the verdict, and planned to appeal "because Johnson's Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer".
In 11 cases so far alleging asbestos contamination in talc, three have resulted in wins for plaintiffs, awarding damages as high as $4.69 billion in a July 2018 multi-plaintiff ovarian cancer verdict.
Most health-care companies performed well, but Johnson & Johnson struggled with claims that its talc baby powder contained the carcinogen asbestos. In 2017, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma - a kind of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
"This track record shows that there are one set of facts in these cases, and that decades of tests by independent, non-litigation driven experts and institutions repeatedly confirm that Johnson's Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer", the company said.
"We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product", Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
The company also noted that multiple cases have been decided in favor of J&J, or been declared mistrials.
About 8 out of 10 people with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos.
Reuters examined decades of internal company and court documents, and determined that Johnson & Johnson had been aware from 1971 to the early 2000s that its product occasionally contained small amounts of asbestos, but never shared that information outside of the company.
Leavitt's trial originally included Johnson & Johnson talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, a unit of Imerys SE, as a co-defendant.
The investigations followed a Reuters report that claimed that J&J knew about the presence of asbestos traces in its products for the last 50 years and failed to disclose this to national regulators and customers. The jury did not award punitive damages - created to punish defendants - from Johnson & Johnson and the other companies involved in making the talcum powder.
J&J has appealed all of the plaintiff verdicts, and the company said it is confident the verdicts would be overturned on appeal.
Almost 14,000 cases involving people who believe that J&J's talc powder caused their cancer are making their way through the US legal system.
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