Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn in talc cancer lawsuit

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Shares of Johnson & Johnson were sliding Friday morning, down 2.68%, the day after a St. Louis jury awarded $4.69 billion to the 22 women who said its talcum baby powder gave them ovarian cancer.

The jury award includes $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

The women and their families allege J&J knew its talc contained asbestos since the 1970s.

Most of the women in St Louis trial used baby powder, but others used Shower-to-Shower, another of Johnson & Johnson's talc-based products.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", the plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier said in a statement. "That may be a harbinger of things to come and there are many more ovarian cancer cases than asbestos cases tied to the powder".

J&J faces lawsuits from customers who say they were harmed by both its talc and transvaginal mesh products.

"The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed", Goodrich said, adding that every verdict against the company in the particular court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed. It's the largest verdict against the company that has sold Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brand talcum powder for decades.

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. Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied that its products can be linked to the cancer. Two of those plaintiffs' verdicts, one for $72 million and the other for $55 million, have been erased on appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

The talc wasn't harmless, plaintiff Toni Roberts, 61, said in an interview after the verdict. The watchdog did not find asbestos contamination.

Companies also have been using asbestos-free talc in its products since 1970.

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. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. The risky strategy allows earlier plaintiffs to send signals about legal tactics and their award amounts to women who bring cases later. Plus, many appeals courts cut back punitive damages awards on appeal.

Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state generally regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs.

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