Almost two dozen women who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer were awarded $550 million in damages by a St Louis jury in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.
The pharmaceutical goods major will have to pay Dollars 550 million in compensatory damages and USD 4.14 billion in punitive damages to the women and their families.
The women's lead lawyer, Mark Lanier, said: "For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products". Previous talc-cancer trials have focused on claims that the talc itself, rather than asbestos, causes ovarian cancer, or that asbestos in talc causes mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Those plaintiffs will receive money from the $550 million in compensatory damages.
More than 9,000 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson due to allegations of health problems caused by asbestos in its talcum powder products.
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".
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement it "is deeply disappointed" and "remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer".
The jury's decision that J&J's baby powder caused ovarian cancer could be more significant in the long-run then the large payout, as its stock dropped 1.4% after Thursday's verdict against its renowned product.
Most of the women in St Louis trial used baby powder, but others used Shower-to-Shower, another of Johnson & Johnson's talc-based products.
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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 company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease'.
'The result of the verdict, which awarded the exact same amounts to all plaintiffs irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding'.
Johnson & Johnson "hired the best labs in the country year after year after year" to test for asbestos, he said.
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York October 15, 2015. One plaintiff is undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend, Mr Lanier said. Berg claimed that she turned down a settlement of United States dollars 1.3 million from the company and instead wanted it to put warning stickers on their products.
But several legal experts said Missouri courts, including at the appellate and supreme court level, were historically plaintiff-friendly and could prove unreceptive to J&J's arguments. Others are from Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.