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Johnson & Johnson Loses Bid to Overturn a $4.7 Billion Baby Powder Verdict

Published: December 19, 2018
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Source: nytimes.com

By Tiffany Hsu

Johnson & Johnson lost its motion on Wednesday to reverse a jury verdict that awarded $4.69 billion to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the company’s baby powder and other talc products.

The $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages, together one of the largest personal injury awards on record, was upheld by Judge Rex Burlison in a circuit court in Missouri. The plaintiffs — 22 women and their families — were the first to go to court against Johnson & Johnson claiming that their ovarian cancer was linked to asbestos contamination in the company’s talc.

Documents used in the case and reported last week by The New York Times and Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson has known for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc, but fought to keep negative information behind closed doors. The company’s stock fell 10 percent on Friday and has struggled to recover since.

[Read more about how Baby Powder’s possible asbestos link worried Johnson & Johnson for years]

lex Gorsky, the chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, told CNBC on Monday that, based on “thousands of studies,” the company “unequivocally” believes that its talc does not contain asbestos. The same day, the company announced a $5 billion stock buyback plan.

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A jury in the US state of Missouri has awarded $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson (J&J) talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. The jury has initially awarded $550 million in compensation and added $4.1 billion in punitive damages.

Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in its iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. The lawsuit was brought by a California woman, Eva Echeverria, who alleged Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential cancer risks of talcum powder.

Over 100,000 patients are suing Johnson & Johnson and their pharmaceutical division Janssen for damages resulting from the use of the drug Risperdal. The lawsuits stem from evidence that taking the drug has caused male patients to suffer from the condition gynecomastia, which causes not only significant weight gain but also the development of breasts. There is also substantial evidence that the company was aware of these adverse effects and did not properly warn the public.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has lost its second legal battle in a row over its talcum powder, which has been alleged to cause cancer. The company must now pay $55 million to a woman who says she got ovarian cancer after using the product.

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