Jury awards $4.7 billion in talcum powder case

Jury awards $4.7 billion in lawsuit linking Johnson & Johnson baby powder to cancer

After 8 hours of deliberations Thursday, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.62 billion to 22 women who sued pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson alleging their ovarian cancer was caused by using its powder as a part of their daily feminine hygiene routine.

Mark Lanier, the Houston-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented jurors with internal company documents revealing Johnson & Johnson knew of the asbestos in its products and failed to warn consumers.

This latest ovarian cancer case, that was decided on Thursday, was one of the first times that lawyers successfully argued the Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder contained asbestos.

Mark Lanier, lead counsel for the women, six of whom have died from ovarian cancer, said that Johnson & Johnson had covered up evidence of asbestos in its products for more than 40 years.

There have been other talcum powder cases in the past, but this was the first to claim Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder contains asbestos and that the exposure to asbestos caused ovarian cancer in the 22 plaintiffs.

The $4.69 billion award is the largest jury award in the United States this year, Bloomberg reported.

Johnson & Johnson called the ruling "fundamentally unfair" and has said it plans to appeal. It's the largest verdict against the company that has sold Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brand talcum powder for decades.

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During Wednesday's closings, Orrick's Peter Bicks walked jurors through studies he said proved the company's talc was asbestos-free.

Johnson & Johnson has been hit with its biggest penalty yet over the allegation that its talcum powders cause cancer.

The company now faces about 9,000 talc-cancer cases in state and federal court, according to published reports, with the bulk of state court cases in Missouri, New Jersey, and California, according to J&J's May 2018 quarterly report.

The claims rest on the fact that talc, a clay mineral, is often found in deposits alongside asbestos ore, which definitely is a cancer risk. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and has fought them all in appeal.

It is highly unlikely the plaintiffs will keep an amount anywhere close to judgment award.

Several similar trials have already taken place, with a Los Angeles appeals court last October dismissing a $417 million verdict against J&J, saying the complainant's arguments were insufficient and vague. It did not find asbestos in any of them.

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