Johnson & Johnson on Thursday was ordered by a Missouri jury to pay over US$110 million to a Virginia woman who says she developed ovarian cancer after decades of using of its talc-based products for feminine hygiene.
The verdict in state court in St Louis was the largest so far to arise out of about 2,400 lawsuits accusing J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of talc-based products including its well-known Johnson’s Baby Powder.
Many of those lawsuits are pending in the state court in St Louis, where the company has faced four prior trials, three of which resulted in verdicts awarding plaintiffs US$195 million in total. The last trial in March ended in a verdict in J&J’s favour.
Thursday’s verdict came in a lawsuit against J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc by Lois Slemp, a resident of Virginia who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer initially diagnosed in 2012 returned and spread to her liver.She claimed that she developed cancer after four decades of daily use of talc-containing products produced by J&J, specifically J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder.
The jury awarded US$5.4 million in compensatory damages and said J&J was 99 per cent at fault while Imerys was just 1 per cent. It awarded punitive damages of US$105 million against J&J and a unit and $50,000 against Imerys.
The verdict , which was broadcast over the internet, was confirmed by a spokesman for a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
In a statement, J&J said that it sympathised with women with ovarian cancer but planned to appeal.
“We are preparing for additional trials this year and will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich.
They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny
Ted Meadows, lawyer for Lois Slemp
The verdict came after J&J secured its first trial win in the Missouri litigation, when a jury sided with the company in a lawsuit by a Tennessee woman who said she developed cancer after using Baby Powder.
That verdict broke a three-trial winning streak by plaintiffs that began with a verdict in February 2016 in which a jury ordered J&J to pay US$72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.
In May 2016, another Missouri jury awarded US$55 million to a woman who said J&J’s talc-powder products caused her to develop ovarian cancer. J&J was hit with a third verdict in October for US$67.5 million.
J&J’s trial win in March and a New Jersey dismissal last year “highlight the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ allegations,” Goodrich said.
J&J doesn’t need to warn women about talc because there is no link, company lawyer Orlando Richmond argued at trial. The Food and Drug Administration was asked in 2014 whether a warning label should be put on baby powder, he said.
“They said ‘No.’ The science doesn’t warrant it,” Richmond said.
The jury didn’t agree.
“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” said Ted Meadows, one of Slemp’s attorneys. “They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Multimillion-dollar payout in talcum powder cancer trial
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