Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
St. Louis, MO, United States (4E) – A jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who sued pharmaceutical multinational Johnson & Johnson, claiming that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.
It was the first case that successfully argued talcum powder contains asbestos, and is the largest verdict ever against Johnson & Johnson.
The women said they used talcum powder, either Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower, as a part of their daily feminine hygiene routine. The jury award includes $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages. That comes to some $25 million per plaintiff.
The jurors endured weeks of testimony and listened while experts explained the complicated science behind the case. They heard from the cancer survivors themselves and the loved ones of six plaintiffs who died from their cancer. Workers at Johnson & Johnson also testified their product is safe.
This case was one of the first time lawyers successfully argued Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder contained asbestos. Scientists presented evidence that tissues with ovarian cancer cells contained asbestos and talc particles.
“For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products,” said Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the women and their families. “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 also alleged J&J rigged’ tests to avoid showing the presence of asbestos. He told the jurors that if a test showed the presence of asbestos, J&J sent it to a lab the company knew would produce different results.
While the allegation talc causes cancer isn’t settled science, some studies have shown there is an elevated risk in women who use talc in their genital area for a long period of time. Other studies have shown no such a connection, however.
What is worrisome for women that use talc in their genital areas is that doctors have noticed that talc particles have been in cancer tumors. It’s been unclear how the contamination occurred and if it led to the cancer.
The women in this ovarian cancer case claim to have all used talc based powder for decades to keep their bodies smelling fresh and clean, particularly in their genital areas.
Unfortunately for Johnson & Johnson, it has to deal with 9,000 cases targeting its talcum powder and its link to cancer this all over the country. Five of these cases saw juries decide for the women plaintiffs. All of those cases are in various stages of appeal. This case will be no exception.
Johnson & Johnson said it remains confident its “products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer.” It said it’s disappointed with the verdict and will appeal.
“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” said a statement from J&J.
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