$550 million awarded in lawsuit linking cancer, baby powder

$550 million awarded in lawsuit linking cancer, baby powder

USA pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson was on Thursday ordered to pay out $4.69 billion in damages in a lawsuit representing 22 women and their families who alleged a talc sold by the company contained asbestos and caused them to suffer cancer. The amount marks the largest jury award in the U.S. in 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and the sixth-largest jury verdict in a product-defect claim in U.S. history. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages.

The women and their families said decades-long use of baby powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. The asbestos cases are part of more than 9,000 claims facing J&J alleging its talc products cause cancer.

J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award. It said it meant to appeal. Goodrich predicted the verdict would be reversed.

"Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed", J&J added, saying that it would pursue all available appellate remedies.

J&J sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said.

"If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning", Lanier said.

"This was a new theory and the jury lined up behind it", Eggen said.

A previous ruling in 2017 by a California jury awarded $417m (£323.4m) to a woman who said she developed ovarian cancer after using the firm's products including baby powder. After attorneys fees, the state of Missouri takes a whopping 50% of punitive damage awards and keeps the money for itself under this state law, which appears to apply to this type of punitive damage award. The company's lawyer said it used the best labs for testing and it will appeal the jury's decision.

But several other settlements have been affirmed with more cases pending.

The jurors sat through weeks of testimony listening to experts who explained the complicated science, workers at Johnson & Johnson who said their product was safe. Valeant now faces suits over the body powder. A New Jersey judge in 2016 stalled lawsuits in that state by tossing two cases set for trial, also finding a lack of scientific evidence.

Six of the women have died; nearly all of the rest, along with friends and relatives, were in the courtroom Thursday.

The trial is one of many proceedings CVN has recorded in Missouri, California, and SC state courts as part of its extensive talc litigation coverage.