Nearly $4.7 billion awarded in Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit

Plaintiff Gail Ingham foreground stands outside the civil courthouse with attorneys Lee Cirsch Eric Holland and Mark Lanier. A jury awarded nearly $US4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families who claimed asbestos in Johnso

JOHNSON & Johnson has been ordered to pay a record $US4.69 billion ($A6.34 billion) to 22 women in the United States who alleged the company's talc-based products contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

The St Louis city court verdict is the 6th largest product defect award in USA history, ordering $4.14 billion in punitive damages, on top of the $500 million created to compensate the 22 women and their families. The firm is embroiled in several cases against its trademark baby powder. J&J sold the product to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.in 2012.

There have been other talcum powder cases in the past, but this was the first to claim Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder contains asbestos and that the exposure to asbestos caused ovarian cancer in the 22 plaintiffs. There are thousands of cases now making their way through court systems all around the country.

Plaintiffs in talc cases have approached litigation in smaller groups instead of suing Johnson & Johnson en masse. All of those cases are in various stages of appeal.

A previous ruling in 2017 by a California jury awarded $417m but that was later overturned on appeal. Goodrich predicted the verdict would be reversed.

The science is still up for debate.

One of the plaintiffs, Gail Ingham, 73, of O'Fallon, Mo., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she was diagnosed with stage-3 ovarian cancer in 1985 and underwent chemotherapy treatments, surgeries and drug treatments for a year before being declared cancer-free in the early 1990s. Other studies have not shown a connection.

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"We would therefore generally advise against using talcum powder on this area of the body". In the USA, government agencies and medical associations that track what causes cancer believe the topic needs more research to know for sure.

J&J denied any contamination with asbestos or any rigged testing. No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples, the agency said. "Then someone at J&J decides to expose babies to asbestos?"

The plaintiff's lawyers said asbestos fibers were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women and introduced evidence that explained how asbestos is intermingled with the mineral talc - the primary ingredient in Johnson's "Baby Powder" and "Shower to Shower" products.

J&J has faced multiple trials in St. Louis over ovarian cancer claims, losing four of the first five to go to trial.

"We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer", he said, calling for talc to be pulled from the market. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Bicks said. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe. He added that it did not even make an effort to label the products with warning stickers.

The company said it was "deeply disappointed" with the verdict and plans to appeal because of a "fundamentally unfair process", The Wall Street Journal reported.

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