Johnson & Johnson has been told to pay $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women who claimed the talc products from the company led to their ovarian cancer diagnosis.
The verdict comes in the midst of the pharmaceutical giant’s current battles with around 9,000 other legal cases involving the brand’s signature baby powder.
J&J said it was “deeply disappointed” and plans to appeal. The outcome is the largest payout J&J has faced over the allegations to date.
The women and their families say they developed cancer after using J&J’s baby powder and other talc products for years. Of the 22 women suing, six have died from ovarian cancer. Their lawyers allege that J&J knew talc contaminated with asbestos since the 1970s was in their products, but didn’t warn their customers of the risks.
J&J denied that its products ever contained asbestos and insisted that they do not cause cancer.
The company also added that several studies prove that talc is safe, and that the verdict was the product of a “fundamentally unfair process”.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including J&J, from 2009 to 2010. It found no asbestos in any of them.
Johnson & Johnson said: “Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed.”
Usually, punitive damages are reduced by the trial judge or on appeal. J&J has been successful thus far, having multiple verdicts overturned, some on technicalities.
A previous ruling in 2017 by a California jury awarded $417 million to a woman who claimed she got ovarian cancer from J&J’s products, including baby powder.
A judge later overturned the verdict; several related legal challenges by J&J are yet to be decided.
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