Women should 'avoid using talcum powder between their legs'

Pearl Mccarthy
July 14, 2018

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 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. According to medical experts appearing during the six-week trial in Missouri, the carcinogen asbestos naturally occurs and intermingles with the talc in the ground. But the prosecution lawyer told the Missouri court that the FDA and Johnson & Johnson had used flawed testing methods.

The company has said concerns about talc's being linked to cancer are based on inconclusive research.

Johnson's baby powder remains stocked at a supermarket shelf on August 22, 2017 in Alhambra, California, where a Los Angeles jury on August 21 ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a woman in hospital who sued the company. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages.

Johnson & Johnson, which has successfully appealed a number of talc cases, said in its statement Thursday that "the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

J&J said it was 'deeply disappointed in the verdict'.

J&J dropped 1.4 per cent in late trading after closing at US$127.76 in NY.

In his theatrical closing argument, Mark Lanier, a famed Houston plaintiff attorney, cited numerous tests over the years that he said showed there was asbestos in the talc mines used by J&J, and in the finished powders.

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The women claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos allegedly found in the baby powder.

The company said its talc does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer, and vowed it would "pursue all available appellate remedies".

The women who sued, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job-retraining program, come from states including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. The risky strategy allows earlier plaintiffs to send signals about legal tactics and their award amounts to women who bring cases later. Several of the women are deceased, and family members carried on their lawsuits.

The punitive part of the St. Louis verdict may be particularly vulnerable to post-trial challenges or appeals.

The jury is considering punitive damages against the company for failing to warn about cancer risk, according to a press release. The U.S. Supreme Court has said such punishment awards must be proportional to compensatory damage verdicts that underlie them.

It's the largest ever verdict again Johnson & Johnson. Co-counsel Eric D. Holland of the Holland Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri, was also integrally involved in the trial.

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