Twenty-two cancer victims have been awarded a total of $4.69 Billion in a case claiming the asbestos in Johnson and Johnson’s talc-based products, including Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Earlier on July 12 it was reported Johnson & Johnson (J&J) had been ordered to pay the 22 plaintiffs at least $550 Million in compensatory damages, with punitive damages yet to be assessed. The 6-man, 6-woman Missouri jury reconvened later in the day to award $4.14 Billion in punitive damages.
Though Johnson & Johnson has been fighting similar cases, in which plaintiffs have alleged the company’s talc-based products have caused ovarian cancer, Thursday’s verdict is the first of its kind in the United States. It is the first case where plaintiffs have alleged the product’s asbestos contamination – and not the talc itself – is responsible for the development of ovarian cancer.
Other cases have claimed the asbestos contamination found in the company’s talc caused victims to develop mesothelioma – an incurable lung cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos.
Cancer Victims Win Suit against J&J’s Asbestos-Contaminated Talc
Much of the 6-week trial’s evidence hinged on the claim that J&J knew of the asbestos contamination in its talc products but chose to conceal their knowledge from the public. Though numerous scientific studies yielded data showing the company’s talc was contaminated by asbestos, J&J allegedly paid company-friendly testing facilities to produce data that stated the opposite – that J&J’s talcum powder was free of any and all asbestos contamination.
Of the 22 parties to file suit, some were the husbands and family members of ovarian cancer victims who allegedly died as a result of being exposed to the asbestos in J&J’s talc. In total, 6 of the 22 victims died before they saw the case reach court. Additionally, according to a report by the New York Times, 1 of the 22 victims was undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend the trial.
Prior to punitive damages, the $550 Million verdict was already the third-largest jury award of 2018. Now the $4.14 Billion punitive damages have been assessed, the verdict finds itself among the largest ever in the history product liability cases, according to the New York Times.
Still, J&J remains convinced of its innocence, releasing a statement that read: “[J&J] remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer.”
Asbestos in Talc Lawsuits: Fighting Back against J&J
Make no mistake; while J&J remains a multi-billion-dollar corporation, and one of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world, this verdict marks a decisive victory for American public health. To put the unprecedented verdict in perspective, $4.69 Billion is equal to roughly 6.1 percent of the company’s purported $76.5 Billion annual revenue (according to 2017 reports).
In addition, Thursday marked another big hit for J&J, as the company watched its Nasdaq-listed stock sink even lower, bringing the total loss in stock price to 13 percent so far in 2018.
It’s not over yet for J&J, as roughly 9,000 additional talc-cancer cases queue in state and federal courts. According to a statement made by a J&J company spokesperson, the company found Thursday’s $4.69 award to be “the product of a fundamentally unfair process” and is “deeply disappointed” with the verdict. As with all verdicts levied against them, J&J plans to file an appeal as soon as they are able.