A Missouri judge has affirmed a $4.7 billion verdict awarded to 22 plaintiffs who alleged that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s popular talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer.
The healthcare products giant, which has strongly denied that its talc-based powders contain any asbestos, has promised to appeal.
The talcum powder lawsuit, which concluded in July, was the first in Missouri to involve asbestos allegations. During the course of the proceeding, plaintiffs’ attorneys presented internal company documents that they said were proof that Johnson & Johnson knew its talc was tainted with asbestos and knowingly failed to warn the public of this risk.
After more than a month of testimony, a jury in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis awarded the plaintiffs compensatory damages totaling $550 million, along with an additional $4.14 billion in punitive damages. Each plaintiff – including the families of 6 women who died from ovarian cancer – was awarded $25 million.
According to Reuters, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison affirmed the jury’s verdict via a series of orders issued on Tuesday, paving the way for Johnson & Johnson to launch its appeal.
The verdict was the largest thus far in the nationwide Johnson & Johnson talcum powder litigation, which currently includes more than 10,000 claims.
The majority of cases were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to their long-term use of the company’s products for feminine hygiene purposes. However, most of these plaintiffs claim that the talc itself caused the disease.
Since February 2015, 6 talcum powder lawsuits have gone to trial in Missouri. Juries have now ruled for plaintiffs a total of 4 times, although two of those verdicts were later dismissed over jurisdictional issues.
Johnson & Johnson also faces talcum powder lawsuits over mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure.
In May, a California jury ordered the company and its talc suppliers to pay $27.1 million to a woman allegedly developed mesothelioma due to asbestos in Baby Powder. Johnson & Johnson was also assessed $4 million in punitive damages after the jury found that it had acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.
A month earlier, a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a man who also claimed that his life-long use of Baby Powder was the only possible explanation for his mesothelioma diagnosis. Johnson & Johnson was found 70% liable for the damages incurred by the plaintiff and his wife, while its talc supplier was found 30% responsible.