It took a St. Louis jury less than 8 hours of deliberation to award $550 million in compensatory damages to 22 women who claimed Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder contains asbestos and substantially contributed to their development of ovarian cancer. It took that same jury less than an hour to hit J&J with $4.14 billion in punitive damages for failing to sufficiently warn consumers about the product’s cancer risks.
The message to J&J was clear: its signature product is not safe.
The trial started in early June and was the first multi-plaintiff trial in the St. Louis talcum powder litigation. Testimony spanned over five weeks and arguments centered on the question of whether J&J’s talc-based baby powder contains asbestos and whether consistent usage could lead to ovarian cancer. It marked the first St. Louis talcum powder trial to include the claim that J&J’s talc-based baby powder contains asbestos. In what was perhaps a telling sign, J&J’s talcum supplier Imerys settled with the 22 plaintiffs for $5 million prior to trial.
Just over two weeks ago, plaintiffs’ counsel dropped a bombshell when they introduced evidence that J&J and Imerys had secretly funded a talcum powder study that dismissed claims that the product can cause ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs also introduced evidence that J&J has known its talcum powder could contain asbestos since the early 1970s yet failed to warn consumers of the potential risks.
Talc, which is considered “possibly carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization, is mined from the earth and can naturally form alongside asbestos. While J&J claimed their own internal testing consistently showed their talc-based baby powder did not contain asbestos, the jury ultimately sided with the plaintiffs’ studies showing that talcum powder can be laced with the toxic mineral.
The verdict is the fifth plaintiff win in the six trials in the St. Louis talcum powder litigation. All 22 plaintiffs had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and claimed that their disease was caused in part by years of perineal talcum powder usage. Sadly, six of the plaintiffs had already passed away.
GoldenbergLaw is currently investigating the use of talcum powder and its link to ovarian cancer. Contact GoldenbergLaw for referral opportunities.
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