$4.7 Billion Talc Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson Upheld
St. Louis judge Rex Burlison denied motions from Johnson & Johnson’s legal team to set aside the July 13th talcum powder verdict against the global corporate giant which awarded damages of $4.7 billion to 22 women alleging that the talcum powder in the company’s baby powder product caused ovarian cancer.
This comes just one day after another judge in Mississippi refused to dismiss another case against the company. The $4.7 billion judgement is the largest in a string of cases against Johnson & Johnson.
“Judge Burlison concluded there was “substantial evidence” to support the $550 million in compensatory damages and that punitive damages, which totaled more than $4 billion, were constitutional.”
The plaintiffs alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew since the 1970s that their baby powder and other cosmetic talc products contained asbestos, which caused health issues including ovarian cancer.
In denying Johnson & Johnson’s motions to set aside the judgment – which awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and more than $4 Billion in punitive damages – Judge Burlison found there was substantial trial evidence that the conduct of Johnson & Johnson was reprehensible because Johnson & Johnson:
- Knew that there was asbestos in the talc powder they were selling;
- Knowingly targeted the sale of this product to mothers and babies;
- Knew the type of damage their talc powder with asbestos would cause; and
- Misrepresented the safety of the talc powder product for decades.
The Judge also found that Johnson & Johnson’s actions caused both significant physical harm and potential physical harm including ovarian cancer. The Judge continued that the evidence at trial not only included plaintiffs’ experts and test results of the talc product but also included Johnson & Johnson’s own testing over the decades as well as evidence of discussions and communications within Johnson & Johnson about the product and its dangers.
In his order, Judge Burison wrote:
“First, substantial evidence was adduced at the trial of particularly reprehensible conduct on the part of defendants, including that defendants knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades. Second, defendants’ actions caused significant physical harm and potential physical harm, including causing ovarian cancer in plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ decedents.”
“The evidence presented at trial includes the testimony of plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, evidence of the testing of the products at issue, including defendants’ own testing, defendants’ correspondence and the testimony of defendants’ corporate representative and chief medical officer. This evidence satisfies the standards for causation under all applicable state law.”
Johnson & Johnson has, so far, made no comment. The global corporate giant reported 8.3% growth with sales of $76.5 billion in 2017 in consumer goods, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals. Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical sales include the blood-thinning medication Xarelto, which is currently facing product liability lawsuits.
Law.com, Amanda Bronstad, December 19, 2018, “Judge Upholds $4.7 Billion Talc Verdict, Citing J&J’s ‘Reprehensible Conduct”
Johnson & Johnson, 2017, “What You Need to Know About Johnson & Johnson’s 2017 Full Year Earnings Report”
A Reuters Investigation, December 14, 2018, “Johnson & Johnson Knew For Decades that Asbestos Lurked in its Baby Powder”
Yahoo! Finance, December 19, 2018, “J&J Loses Bid to Have $4.7 Billion Talc Verdict Set Aside, Vows to Appeal”
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