Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn in talc cancer lawsuit

J&J denies claims its talc products contain asbestos Image J&J denies claims its talc products contain asbestos
Samantha Long | 13 July, 2018, 19:39

A jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $550 million in compensatory damages along with $4.14 billion in punitive damages to 22 women who claimed the company's baby powder had asbestos in it.

Punitive damages are still to be decided for the 22 plaintiffs in a case that began June 4 in St Louis Circuit Court.

Asbestos fibers and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women, the plaintiffs said. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this spring.

The company will appeal, Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman, said in an email.

In a statement, he said: 'For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products'.

The company has said concerns about talc's being linked to cancer are based on inconclusive research. Goodrich predicted the verdict would be reversed. "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

J&J faces lawsuits from customers who say they were harmed by both its talc and transvaginal mesh products.

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J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award.

The company "remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies", it said in a statement.

The defense contended that claims linking asbestos to J&J's talc-based products was a lawyer-driven argument that lacked strong scientific support and that the women developed ovarian cancer for other reasons. Johnson & Johnson sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said. The prosecution also added that Johnson & Johnson used flawed testing methods.

Target Ovarian Cancer said it was important to note that the increased risk was "very small". A New Jersey couple was awarded $117 million after after the husband claimed the J&J powder he inhaled gave him mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. "Why all the testing?" Numerous other women involved took the stand at trial to talk about their use of the products and how ovarian cancer affected their lives. She even wrote a book to help others going through an ovarian cancer diagnosis. She is receiving chemotherapy in Roanoke, Virginia, but described it as palliative.

At one point during deliberations, the jury asked the judge for magic markers and ice-cream sandwiches.

The jurors sat through weeks of testimony listening to experts who explained the complicated science, workers at Johnson & Johnson who said their product was safe. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. Six of the women have died, so their families pressed wrongful-death claims against J&J.

Listening to the plaintiffs' accounts of their cancers was "gut-wrenching, " Bicks told jurors Wednesday. The risky strategy allows earlier plaintiffs to send signals about legal tactics and their award amounts to women who bring cases later. The trial was "an attempt to use sympathy in pursuit of a big payday from a deep-pockets defendant". Scientists presented evidence that the tissue with the ovarian cancer cells contained asbestos and talc particles.

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