Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay US$4.7 billion in talc cancer case

J&J denies claims its talc products contain asbestos

A jury in Missouri, United States, ordered multinational pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion (Rs 32,169 crore) in damages to 22 women who claimed they had developed ovarian cancer after using the company's talc products, BBC reported on Friday. The damages awarded in the latest trial relate to claims of cancer linked to asbestos after the women used baby powder and other products over several decades.

Mr Lanier said Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products and should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch. Lawyers allege asbestos fibers and talc particles had been found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women they represent. "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed", the statement read, "and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials, which have been reversed". "With all of this independent testing, there's some massive conspiracy going on at Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to asbestos?"

Johnson & Johnson denied the claim and insisted that their products do not cause cancer. Two of those plaintiffs' verdicts, one for $72 million and the other for $55 million, have been erased on appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

"American studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk", the organization says.

The verdict came shortly after the jury awarded $550 million in damages to the women. "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".

Companies also have been using asbestos-free talc in its products since 1970. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this spring.

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. The risky strategy allows earlier plaintiffs to send signals about legal tactics and their award amounts to women who bring cases later.

Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state generally regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Mr. Bicks said.

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