Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay £3.6bn in talc asbestos cancer case


During Wednesday's closings of the trial's first phase, plaintiffs' attorney Mark Lanier did not request a specific damage award but urged jurors to write their figures "in big letters". He did say that he expects the punitive damages award to be halved during the appeals process due to a Missouri state law that caps such damages, but is confident the verdict would stand overall. The settlement amount was not announced, but Bloomberg reported that Imerys agreed to pay at least $5 million. 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.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict yesterday to award compensatory damages for 22 plaintiffs that averaged US$25 million apiece. Numerous other women involved took the stand at trial to talk about their use of the products and how ovarian cancer affected their lives.

The landmark trial is the first of its kind concerning claims that asbestos in J&J's talc causes ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Johnson's baby powder, said it was "deeply disappointed" in the verdict and planned to appeal. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Mr. Bicks said. J&J sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said. The watchdog did not find asbestos contamination.

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had earlier - from 2009 to 2010 - commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", Lanier said in a press release issued immediately following the verdict.

One juror, Evan Klene, 24, a financial analyst, said the jury tried "to understand the totality of what these women went through". "Don't let them get off".

J&J "will appeal till the cows come home, or until all the plaintiffs die", plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier said in an interview Thursday.

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J&J denied any contamination with asbestos or any rigged testing.

Bicks described the plight of the plaintiffs as "gut-wrenching, " but said that "because something awful happened doesn't mean that Johnson & Johnson had anything to do with it".

Johnson & Johnson is also fighting a separate battle with plaintiffs who blame the company's talc products for their developing mesothelioma, a form of cancer generally found in the lungs, that is linked to asbestos exposure.

'The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease'.

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.

As the company notes, it has been successful in appealing three talc verdicts so far worth a combined $544 million. Asbestos, a well-known cancer-causing agent, is often mined near talc.

It's clear that most cases will never be tried, but verdicts in initial trials are likely to strongly influence the size of settlements of many other cases. Several other cases have involved sizeable damages, including a $417 million verdict reached by jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court previous year. For example, Colgate Palmolive faces 199 suits involving the Cashmere Bouquet powder it marketed until 1996, according to its latest quarterly report.