A St. Louis circuit court jury Thursday ruled against New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson and said it has to pay $550 million in actual damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages over a lawsuit alleging that the pharmaceutical giant’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer in women over several years.
The case was brought against Johnson & Johnson on June 4 by 22 defendants – all of whom developed cancer – alleging the company’s best-selling baby powder contained asbestos that led to the cancer. The award comes three months after a jury in Middlesex County civil court awarded $37 million to a New Jersey couple who made similar claims.
It is the first case in the country that alleged that Johnson & Johnson should have put a warning label baby powder products saying they contain asbestos.
“J&J sells the same powders in a corn starch variety. If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Lanier, in a public statement.
Johnson & Johnson issued a statement of its own, calling the trial “fundamentally unfair” and adding the 22 plaintiffs had no connection to Missouri nor presented direct evidence that it was the baby powder that caused the cancer.
“Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies. Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through to appeals has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” according to Johnson & Johnson’s statement.