It is a new record in the talcum powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson over its baby powder. A St. Louis jury delivered not just a $500 million in damages for the plaintiff, but added $4.14 billion, bringing the total verdict to $4.7 billion against J&J.
That amount is to be divided among 22 plaintiffs who all claimed their ovarian cancer resulted from the long-term use of talcum powder products made by J&J -Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder.
The jury award amounts to about $25 million per plaintiff.
The women claim the powder contained asbestos and that J&J knew for 40 years of the risk of cancer but failed to warn users.
The trial took six weeks. Settling on a punitive damage amount took about 45 minutes to deliberate, said the attorney for the plaintiffs, Mark Lanier.
Lanier told jurors that the company knew which lab to conduct talc tests to avoid finding the presence of any asbestos.
There are more than 9,000 plaintiffs waiting to have their day in court in this St. Louis, Missouri court.
Six of the plaintiffs in this case have died, while one was too ill to attend. The other women and relatives were in the courtroom.
J&J called the outcome "an unfair process" because 22 women’s cases were combined into a single group. J&J says its baby powder does not contain the carcinogen, asbestos.
An appeal is expected with J&J citing multiple errors in the trial, reports the New York Times.
The women included Imerys SA, in their complaint. That is the supplier of the raw talc to J&J. It has reportedly agreed to a partial settlement.
Shower-to-Shower was sold to Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2012 for$150 million, and Valeant asked JNJ to cover its lawsuits. One year ago, it was facing 33 lawsuits, reports Fierce Pharma.
Plaintiff attorneys tell jurors that the talcum powder travels to the ovaries where it incites inflammation and cancer.
Judges have been known to reduce punitive awards on appeal.
The trial was held in the Missouri Circuit Court for St. Louis City, the same venue for the trial of the late Jacqueline Fox, who was awarded $72 million and another for $55 million. Both verdicts were erased on appeal.
A Los Angeles jury awarded a woman $417 million before she died but that case was overturned in October 2017.
Plaintiffs have also successfully sued the company for mesothelioma and cancer after routine talc use.
J&J still has no warning on its baby powder and personal hygiene powders, unlike other powder makers whose label contains a warning about a possible link to ovarian cancer with extended use.
In 2016 the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established MDL No. 2738 in New Jersey to consolidate the growing number of talcum powder/ovarian cancer cases from around the country.
This case was Ingham v Johnson & Johnson, 1522-CC10417, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri. ###