The jury convened to hear evidence in Missouri’s fifth talcum powder lawsuit trial has handed Johnson & Johnson yet another defeat, after awarding more than $110 million to a woman who claimed the company’s talc-based powders caused her ovarian cancer. The verdict, which included $5.4 million in actual damages and $105 million in punitive damages, stands as the largest awarded so far in the nationwide litigation involving Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.
“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” one of Lois Slemp’s attorneys told Bloomberg News. “They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny.
Slemp, who suffers from ovarian cancer that has spread to her liver, was too ill to be present when the verdict was read last Monday in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis City. The 61-year-old Virginia woman used Johnson & Johnson’s Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder for more than 40 years before she was diagnosed with the disease in 2012.
The jury hearing Slemp’s case deliberated for just 10 hours before finding that Johnson & Johnson was 99% liable for her suffering. The consumer healthcare giant was ordered to pay Slemp $104 million in punitive damages, while talc supplier Imery’s Talc was assessed $50,000 in damages.
During the three-week trial, Slemp’s attorneys presented jurors with several internal Johnson & Johnson documents indicating that company officials had long been aware of research linking genital talc use to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Apparently, those documents played a significant role in the decision to vindicate Slemp, with one member of the jury telling Bloomberg News that their contents were “mind-blowing”.
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 3,000 similar talcum powder lawsuits in courts around the country. More than 1,000 of those claims have been filed in Missouri, while hundreds of others are pending in centralized litigations now underway in Delaware, California and New Jersey state courts. At least 233 federally-filed cases are undergoing coordinated pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
So far, Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in just one Missouri talcum powder trial, which concluded this past March. Last October, a woman from California was awarded $70 million, including $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $67.5 million in punitive damages, by the jury hearing her case. Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million ($5 million compensatory, $50 million punitive) to a South Dakota ovarian cancer survivor in May, while the family of an Alabama woman who died of the disease was awarded $72 million ($10 million compensatory and $62 million punitive) in February 2016.