Sunday, 15 September, 2019

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay US$4.7B in talc powder lawsuit

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York
Rhonda Young | 16 July, 2018, 02:32

On Thursday, a jury ordered the company to pay $4.7 billion to women who claimed asbestos in the products caused them to develop ovarian cancer, marking the sixth-largest product-defect verdict in USA history.

The US-based firm is now battling over 9,000 cases over their mineral talc, which is the primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.

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. "They are just old studies that have left doubt in people's minds as to whether or not it's a risk factor", she says. Numerous other women involved took the stand at trial to talk about their use of the products and how ovarian cancer affected their lives. Only five of the plaintiffs are from the state, 17 are from other states, six of them have died due to cancer.

Although J&J faces the greatest legal exposure, it's not the only company to be targeted in talc powder litigation. The company said plaintiffs' tests showing asbestos contamination were "junk science".

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The prosecution lawyer told the Missouri court that the FDA and Johnson & Johnson had used flawed testing methods.

Fiona Osgun, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, added: "Scientists are studying the link between women using talcum powder on their genitals and ovarian cancer and so far the evidence doesn't give a clear picture".

One juror, Evan Klene, 24, a financial analyst, said the jury tried "to understand the totality of what these women went through".

The world's softest mineral, talc is used in a host of cosmetics, like eyeshadow and blush, as well as body dusting powders.

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J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed. And a federal judge in California said Tuesday that cancer victims and their families could present expert testimony linking the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A separate plaintiffs' award, for $417 million by a Los Angeles jury in August, was reversed by the trial judge who decided evidence didn't support the verdict. Another mesothelioma case in late May ended in a mistrial. This will be one of the elements challenged by Johnson & Johnson at appeal.

During Wednesday's closings of the trial's first phase, plaintiffs' attorney Mark Lanier did not request a specific damage award but urged jurors to write their figures "in big letters".

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

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer. The company has won other ovarian cancer cases in New Jersey and St. Louis.

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