Nearly $4.7B awarded in suit linking cancer, Johnson & Johnson baby powder

Via Alexey Novikov

Following an eight-hour deliberation Thursday, jurors awarded the women $550 million in compensatory damages and another $4.14 billion in punitive damages, their attorney, Mark Lanier, said in a news release. Unlike the case-control studies, these efforts began with a large group of women who did not have cancer and followed the progress of their health, with participants recording what they were doing in real time.

Mr Lanier said Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products and should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company was disappointed with yesterday's verdict but would not comment further until the punitive damages are announced.

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.

Several similar trials have already taken place, with a Los Angeles appeals court last October dismissing a $417 million verdict against J&J, saying the complainant's arguments were insufficient and vague.

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Six of the women have died; nearly all of the rest, along with friends and relatives, were in the courtroom Thursday.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, in a statement following the verdict called on J&J to pull its talc products from the market "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease". Divan writes that despite the eye-catching headlines, in the majority of the talc lawsuits (more than 9,000 as of the first quarter), which have produced higher damage awards, the company has been able to overturn most of the unfavorable rulings.

The company denied that its products ever contained asbestos and insisted that they do not cause cancer. The company has faced legal challenges on the same issue before, which it is still appealing or contesting. The court will decide where that money goes, but they have not yet determined the fate of that $4.14 billion.

Of the 22 women represented in the case, six have died from ovarian cancer.

J&J says it will appeal the latest verdict, which it argues is "the product of a fundamentally unfair process". Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Mr. Bicks said. The vast majority of the suits involve ovarian cancer, although some assert that inhalation of dust from contaminated powder caused mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer typically caused by asbestos exposure. A New Jersey judge in 2016 stalled lawsuits in that state by tossing two cases set for trial, also finding a lack of scientific evidence. Valeant now faces suits over the body powder.

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