Women Awarded Almost $5 Billion In Damages from J&J


Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay almost $4.7bn (£3.58bn) in damages to 22 women who claim the company's talcum powder contributed to them developing ovarian cancer.

Lawyers said asbestos fibres and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women.

Lanier, the plaintiff's lawyer told jurors in his closing arguments that the company knew its products were contaminated with asbestos but wanted to protect the baby powder which was "their sacred cow".

But Lanier argued that it was the agencies and labs cited by J&J that used flawed testing methods that failed to detect asbestos.

The verdict is the largest payout J&J has faced over allegations its talc products cause cancer. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages.

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The company did not immediately provide a statement on the total damages award, but earlier said it was disappointed with the jury's decision finding the company liable.

The shares of the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company dropped 1.4 per cent in late trading after closing at USUS$127.76 in NY.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Mark Lanier, said in a statement that J&J should either pull its talc products from shelves or mark them with a "serious warning".

The verdict is the largest trial award by far in a host of suits claiming the company's signature Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products cause cancer.

St. Louis-Jurors Thursday slammed Johnson & Johnson with a $4.69 billion verdict, including more than $4.1 billion in punitives, for the role they concluded the company played in the ovarian cancer 22 women developed after years of using its talc-based products. Colgate has settled some lawsuits, including a mesothelioma case just prior to the start of the scheduled trial this week in Los Angeles. For example, Colgate Palmolive faces 199 suits involving the Cashmere Bouquet powder it marketed until 1996, according to its latest quarterly report.

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"Given evidence is inconsistent we do advocate a "better safe than sorry" attitude and advise that women using talc on their genitals stop doing so". Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. Johnson & Johnson is facing 9,000 other lawsuits from women with similar claims.

Asbestos fibers and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.

The punitive part of the St. Louis verdict may be particularly vulnerable to post-trial challenges or appeals. Bloomberg reported that the award was the sixth-largest products liability award in US history.

The jury awarded the $550 million (around Rs 3,800 crore) to the petitioners, who had claimed that the asbestos found in the product was carcinogenic. Plus, many appeals courts cut back punitive damages awards on appeal.

A state trial court jury on Thursday handed up a $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson. "J&J has a good shot at knocking it down".

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