A Missouri appeals court upheld a multi-billion-dollar jury verdict that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder caused women to develop ovarian cancer. This lawsuit is one of over 15,000 against the pharmaceutical giant, each alleging J&J knowing sold a product that caused cancer and other severe injuries.
On Tuesday, June 23 a panel of judges with the Missouri Court of Appeals rejected Johnson & Johnson’s appeal to overturn a jury’s award to a group of 22 different women in 2018. The amount awarded totaled to $4.7 billion. Each of the plaintiffs claimed their long-term exposure to J&J’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer diagnoses. The jury found that based on evidence presented in the trial, Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that applying their talc-based baby powder in the genital region can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Even with this knowledge, J&J failed to warn the public.
“A reasonable inference from all of this evidence is that, motivated by profits, Defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge that talc in their products caused ovarian cancer,” the appeals court said in their ruling. “The jury, exercising its ‘right to determine credibility, weigh the evidence and draw justifiable inferences of fact,’ could have reasonably concluded it was highly probable Defendants’ conduct ‘was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference’ based on this evidence.”
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the appeals court cut the damages awarded by over half, reducing a $4.69 billion award to $2.1 billion. Even with the reduction, this talcum powder verdict is one of the largest awards in the talcum powder litigation.
Johnson & Johnson maintain that the trial was flawed and the talcum powder verdict should be overturned. However, the panel of judges with the Missouri Court of Appeals turned down J&J’s arguments. The judges upheld an award of $500 million in compensatory damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Though Johnson & Johnson still say their talc-based products are safe for consumers, increasing numbers of talcum powder lawsuits continue to flood in from individuals injured by talc-based baby powder. Users of talcum powder have not only claimed that J&J’s baby powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer, but some developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in talc baby powder.
Early in 2020 Johnson & Johnson issued a baby powder recall for over 30,000 bottles of talcum powder after a laboratory found traces of asbestos in the powder. Their own laboratories claimed to find no traces of asbestos, and Johnson & Johnson still deny any link between talc causing users’ mesothelioma.
In May 2020, the pharmaceutical giant decided to completely remove their baby powder from the North American market, largely due to the talcum powder litigation it faces in the United States. The thousands of lawsuits in the talcum powder litigation have been centralized before U.S. Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey as part of a multidistrict litigation.
A select group of 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits have been selected to go through a bellwether discovery process in preparation for future trial dates. However, if J&J fails to reach a talcum powder settlement with plaintiffs, each of the cases in the litigation may be remanded back to the courts they were originally filed in for individual trial dates.