A Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay US$4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the firm’s talc-based products contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer, Reuters reports.
The penalty Thursday is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer, the report noted.
J&J is battling some 9,000 talc cases. The company denies both that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos.
Thursday’s massive verdict, handed down in a court in St. Louis, was comprised of US$550 million in compensatory damages and US$4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to the report.
In a statement, J&J called the trial “fundamentally unfair” and said it will appeal the decision.
“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process,” the company said.
It said it remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past.
The jury’s decision in the latest case followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts on both sides, according to the report.
The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege J&J knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.
The US Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including of J&J’s Baby Powder. No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples.
But Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women in the Missouri case, told jurors during the trial 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.
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