$4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder

Via Nu1983

The St Louis city court verdict is the 6th largest product defect award in United States history, ordering $4.14 billion in punitive damages, on top of the $500 million created to compensate the 22 women and their families.

Jurors on Thursday awarded the women $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.

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.

Under the Supreme Court guidelines the $4 billion punitive award in St. Louis would likely be considered "excessive", said Anthony Sabino, law professor at St. John's University in NY.

The verdict comes as the pharmaceutical giant battles some 9,000 legal cases involving its signature talcum powder.

The jury is considering punitive damages against the company for failing to warn about cancer risk, according to a press release. In a statement, lead trial counsel Mark Lanier said he hopes the "verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc and ovarian cancer".

The damages awarded in the latest trial relate to claims of cancer linked to asbestos after the women used baby powder and other products over several decades. Sadly, six of the 22 plaintiffs have died from ovarian cancer. "The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

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In some cases, large settlements have been overturned, as was the case in October when a Los Angeles judge overturned a $417 million settlement against the company on grounds that "serious misconduct" was allegedly committed by a jury.

Lanier said his team amassed "hundreds of pages of evidence" showing lobbying efforts and baby powder focus groups J&J conducted in the state. The company has had previous success in overturning large verdicts in talc cases as well as others alleging harm from its products.

The victims' lawyer, Mark Lanier, said they had used the talc for personal hygiene. No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples, the agency said.

They said they later developed ovarian cancer.

The company has been fighting claims that talc powder is unsafe for years. Others are from Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Lanier, however, told jurors that the company "rigged the tests" to avoid conceding that its baby powder contained asbestos. The trial was "an attempt to use sympathy in pursuit of a big payday from a deep-pockets defendant".

J&J in a statement called the trial "fundamentally unfair" and said it would appeal the decision.

Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.

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