Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talcum powder lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talcum powder lawsuit

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Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson must pay damages of $4.7 billion to a group of women who claim the company's talc products made them develop ovarian cancer, a court has ruled. The company's shares dropped in after-hours trading.

The jury awarded $550 million and later added $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company for allegedly failing to warn that its talcum powder raised the risk of ovarian cancer, after a six-week trial. Bloomberg reported that the award was the sixth-largest products liability award in US 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.

Lawyers said asbestos fibres and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women.

The verdict is the largest payout J&J has faced over allegations its talc products cause cancer.

J&J dropped 1.4 per cent in late trading after closing at US$127.76 in NY. It said it meant to appeal. The award was earmarked for 22 women and their families who claimed Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products also contained asbestos.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", Lanier said in a press release issued immediately following the verdict. In October, a judge reversed two verdicts in favor of the company.

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Johnson & Johnson, which has successfully appealed a number of talc cases, said in its statement Thursday that "the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed". "If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning".

But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the proper detection of asbestos fibers.

In the trial that went on for six weeks, the women said that they developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc products for decades.

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

"This was a new theory and the jury lined up behind it", Jean Eggen, a Widener University law professor who teaches about mass-tort cases told Bloomberg."That may be a harbinger of things to come and there are many more ovarian cancer cases than asbestos cases tied to the powder".

The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in a product liability case, he said. Already, Johnson & Johnson is reeling from the decision; its stock is down almost 3% in premarket trading. Several other legal challenges by J&J are pending. Valeant now faces suits over the body powder.

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