Johnson & Johnson's ordered to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 womenas US jury accepts famous baby talc caused cancer.
A St Louis jury concluded that J&J’s talc-based products contained asbestos, causing the 22 women, six of whom have died, to develop ovarian cancer. J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorsky had made statements expressing confidence that the jury decision will be overturned on appeal.
One of the 22 women Toni Roberts, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, told Reuters ‘Justice has been served’ irrespective of what happens next. She said, ‘We have made a difference. We have alerted the public.’ New Jersey-based J&J is battling over 9,000 talc product liability cases, and has consistently denied that the products cause cancer and says they never contained asbestos. The St Louis trial was the first to allege asbestos-contaminated talc caused ovarian cancer. J&J has successfully overturned prior verdicts in the talc litigation. Any appeal will argue the case was based on flawed science, and should not have been heard in Missouri because many of the defendants were from out-of-state. A 2017 US Supreme Court decision severely restricted state courts’ jurisdiction over injury lawsuits brought by non-residents against out-of-state companies.
J&J not to blame
One of the other 22 women Krystal Kim had been using J&J baby powder several times a day since she was 10, and told Reuters she put her faith in the brand because of its promise of purity. She said, ‘They call it baby powder to make it seem innocuous.’ Both women have said J&J should take its talc-based powder off the market or add a warning label. J&J has said those steps were unnecessary, citing scientific tests concluding talc does not cause cancer or contain asbestos. During the trial, the company’s lawyer, Peter Bicks, said J&J had deep compassion for the women, but that the company was not to blame for their diseases. ‘Just because something terrible happened doesn’t mean that Johnson & Johnson had anything to do with it,’ Mr Bicks said.