Last week, a judge for the 22nd Circuit Court of St. Louis, Missouri affirmed a $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson (hereinafter “Johnson”), for claims that its talcum products, including baby powder, caused ovarian cancer. To date, this verdict is the largest on record against Johnson related to the allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.
The group of plaintiffs consisted 22 women, six of whom are deceased, as well as their families. In July 2018, after a six-week trial, a jury awarded $550 million in damages and another $4.14 billion in punitive damages. Johnson subsequently stated that it will appeal the award.
This lawsuit was the first in Missouri to involve asbestos allegations. During the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs presented internal company documents that allegedly prove that Johnson knew the talc was tainted with asbestos and knowingly failed to warn the public of this risk.
Judge Rex Burlison, whom affirmed the award last week, said that there is no reason to delay distributing the award, despite Johnson’s clear intent to appeal.
Johnson continues to deny the allegations, and claims that it is confident about the fact that its products are completely safe. Johnson has further stated that it will provide data from scientific studies to show that the talc is safe and does not contain asbestos.
In a statement last week, an attorney for the plaintiffs stated the following: “We hope this judgment will compel Johnson & Johnson to take responsible, effective action in acknowledging the inherent dangers of the use of talc, and specifically the use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and similar products.”
This lawsuit is one of nearly 9,000 cases against Johnson for its talc products. A majority of the cases claim that Johnson ignored the scientific data linking its talcum powder products to ovarian cancer. Additionally, the cases also claim that Johnson failed to warn its customers about the risk of cancer.
Many of these lawsuits were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed cancer after long-term use of the products for feminine hygiene purposes. However, unlike this case out of Missouri, most of the lawsuits alleged that the talc itself caused the cancer to develop.
Johnson also faces talcum powder lawsuits over mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Recently, in two notable verdicts, Johnson was ordered to pay a combined $150 million to plaintiffs who alleged that extended use of baby powder was the only explanation for mesothelioma diagnoses. Further, a new trial against Johnson is now under way in California state court, alleging that its baby powder caused mesothelioma. In the opening statements by Johnson’s defense attorneys, it was stated that the company went to “extraordinary lengths” to ensure that its cosmetic talc did not contain the toxic mineral.