The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.
A court jury in St Louis, Missouri, ordered Johnson & Johnson, on Thursday, to pay damages of up to USD 4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed that asbestos present in the company’s talcum powder was the reason for them developing ovarian cancer.
The pharmaceutical goods major will have to pay USD 550 million in compensatory damages and USD 4.14 billion in punitive damages to the women and their families.
The women claimed that the company failed to warn them about the traces of the chemical and associated cancer risks in using Johnson’s Baby Powder.
According to a report in The New York Times, Johnson & Johnson said that it is planning to appeal the verdict as it was ‘disappointed’ with the jury’s decision. A regulatory document states that the company is facing 9,000 other cases involving baby talcum powder.
One of the women’s lawyers said that the verdict was reached following a nine-hour session and after deliberating over it for more than six weeks.
Six of the 22 women are now deceased and one more was too ill to attend the trial; the courtroom was filled with the remaining plaintiffs and their families and friends.
The lawyer confirmed that Johnson & Johnson had covered up the presence of asbestos in its products for more than 40 years. He added that it did not even make an effort to label the products with warning stickers.
As per the report, the company released a statement saying it is confident that its products do not contain asbestos and hence does not contribute to ovarian cancer in any way. It added that the trial was ‘fundamentally unfair’ as the 22 women, with ‘few connections to Missouri,’ were represented as a single plaintiff.
The case first came to light in 2013, when a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a case against Johnson & Johnson. Deane Berg had used the company’s baby talcum powder for more than 40 years and discovered she had developed ovarian cancer in 2006. Berg claimed that she turned down a settlement of USD 1.3 million from the company and instead wanted it to put warning stickers on their products. Her cancer is currently in remission after months of ‘brutal’ chemotherapy.The company has, since then, been sued by thousands of women and in August 2017, it was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay damages of USD 417 million to a hospital receptionist, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades.