$4.69 Billion Verdict Pounds Johnson & Johnson in 22-Plaintiff, Talc-Cancer Trial

Jury awards $4.7 billion in lawsuit linking Johnson & Johnson baby powder to cancer

Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7bn damages in talc cancer case

Fortune 500 company, Johnson & Johnson, has been ordered to pay $4.69 billion to women who argued in court that its talc products contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer, Bloomberg reported.

As the verdict was read in court, the first eight of 22 plaintiffs were each awarded US$25-million - and damages were still being announced for the other 14 plaintiffs.

J&J knew its talc products were contaminated with asbestos and kept this information from reaching the public, Lanier, the plaintiffs' lawyer, told jurors in closing arguments.

The latest case is one of a string of legal claims revolving around the alleged presence of asbestos in the talc Johnson & Johnson puts in products such as baby powder.

The case first came to light in 2013 when a woman claimed that she had been using the company's talcum powder for 40 years and developed ovarian cancer in 2006.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and defense lawyers probably would file a motion to reduce the award. "If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning".

J&J said it was 'deeply disappointed in the verdict'. "With all of this independent testing, there's some massive conspiracy going on at Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to asbestos?"

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During Wednesday's closings, Orrick's Peter Bicks walked jurors through studies he said proved the company's talc was asbestos-free.

The company's products don't contain asbestos and don't cause ovarian cancer, she said.

Johnson & Johnson vehemently denies that their product is unsafe and vowed to appeal the verdict. The watchdog did not find asbestos contamination.

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

The claims rest on the fact that talc, a clay mineral, is often found in deposits alongside asbestos ore, which definitely is a cancer risk.

The women in the St Louis trial, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job retraining programme, come from states across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. The other two are on appeal, facing the same challenges from J&J. Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and has fought them all in appeal.

Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state generally regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs.

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