Jury awards $4.7 billion in talcum powder case

A jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $550 million in compensatory damages along with $4.14 billion in punitive damages to 22 women who claimed the company's baby powder had asbestos in it. The trial was the largest test for J&J's talc defense to date and combined the claims of 22 women, six of whom have died.

The company's products don't contain asbestos and don't cause ovarian cancer, she said.

Even as Johnson & Johnson has successfully appealed three talc verdicts, the company has now suffered its biggest legal setback yet for the products.

Ingham, who used baby powder for decades, said she joined the lawsuit because women who use baby powder 'need to know what's in there.

The women's lead lawyer, Mark Lanier, said: "For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products".

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'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, ' Lanier said.

But Lanier argued J&J traded on the reputation of its baby powder as a source of comfort, all while rigging tests over decades to hide cancer-causing asbestos the company knew was in its talc.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict Thursday to award compensatory damages for 22 plaintiffs that averaged US$25 million apiece. The other two are on appeal, facing the same challenges from Johnson & Johnson.

After a brief punitive phase Thursday afternoon, jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before handing down their $4.14 billion punitive award.

The company has, since then, been sued by thousands of women and in August 2017, it was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay damages of Dollars 417 million to a hospital receptionist, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson's Baby Powder for decades.

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But Lanier argued that it was the agencies and labs cited by J&J that used flawed testing methods that failed to detect asbestos.

Six of the women in the case have passed away and were represented at the trial by spouses and family members. J&J denies those allegations, saying rigorous testing and purification processes ensure its talc is clean. However asbestos, which can contaminate talc if not carefully extracted or purified, is a carcinogen.

The company "rigged" tests to avoid showing the presence of asbestos, Lanier said.

Fiona Osgun, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, added: "Scientists are studying the link between women using talcum powder on their genitals and ovarian cancer and so far the evidence doesn't give a clear picture".

The women in the St Louis trial, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job retraining programme, come from states across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY.

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Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.

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