$4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder

Plaintiff Gail Ingham foreground stands outside the civil courthouse with attorneys Lee Cirsch Eric Holland and Mark Lanier. A jury awarded nearly $US4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families who claimed asbestos in Johnso

JOHNSON & Johnson has been ordered to pay a record $US4.69 billion ($A6.34 billion) to 22 women in the United States who alleged the company's talc-based products contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

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

The company said it is disappointed with the latest verdict plans to file an appeal.

Goodrich said the verdict awarding all the women the same amount despite differences in their circumstances showed evidence in the case was overwhelmed by prejudice created when so many plaintiffs are allowed to sue the company in one lawsuit.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", said Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs. "The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

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Six of the 22 women are now deceased and one more was too ill to attend the trial; the courtroom was filled with the remaining plaintiffs and their families and friends.

The jury has yet to decide on punitive damages. The jury later added $4.1 billion (around Rs 28,100 crore) in punitive damages. "If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning".

"If there were a link, any increase in risk would be fairly small, and as ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease, overall women who use talc would still have a low chance of developing the disease".

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

"Some (of the plaintiffs) are truly on their death bed and fighting for every day of their lives, and several of them came back for the jury verdict and were hugging the necks of those jurors", said Lanier.

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To place the size of Thursday's verdict in perspective, the award would equal about 6.1% of the multi-national company's roughly $76.5 billion in 2017 reported revenue.

The claims rest on the fact that talc, a clay mineral, is often found in deposits alongside asbestos ore, which definitely is a cancer risk. But the prosecution lawyer told the Missouri court that the FDA and Johnson & Johnson had used flawed testing methods.

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.

Those decisions followed a New Jersey jury's finding in April that J&J and Imerys America must pay $117 million to a banker who claimed his cancer was tied to use of the company's talc products.

The company now faces about 9,000 talc-cancer cases in state and federal court, according to published reports, with the bulk of state court cases in Missouri, New Jersey, and California, according to J&J's May 2018 quarterly report.

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