An appellate court in Missouri upheld over $2 billion in damages against Johnson & Johnson, saying the corporate knew there was asbestos in its powder.
A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday ordered Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay $2.1 billion in damages to women who blamed their ovarian cancers on the company’s talcum products, including its iconic powder.
The decision slashed by quite half a record award of $4.69 billion in compensatory and exemplary damages to the ladies, which was made in July 2018.
Johnson & Johnson still faces thousands of lawsuits from consumers who claim its talcum products were contaminated with asbestos that caused cancer. the corporate announced last month that it might stop selling powder made up of talc in North America, though it might still market the merchandise elsewhere within the world.
A spokeswoman said Johnson & Johnson would seek further review of the ruling by the Supreme Court of Missouri and defended its talcum products as safe.
“We still believe this was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded during a faulty presentation of the facts,” Kim Montagnino, the spokeswoman, said. “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos-free and doesn’t cause cancer.”
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Mark Lanier, the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, urged consumers to discard any powder that they had in their homes. Six plaintiffs within the case died before the trial started, and five more women have died since the jury trial led to 2018, he said.
Since this is often a lawsuit, “all you’ll do is ok them, and that we got to find them sufficiently that the industry wakes up and takes notice,” Mr. Lanier added.
In its decision, the appeals court noted that the company’s internal memorandums from as far back because the 1960s indicated that its talcum products — mentioned because of the “golden egg,” “company trust-mark” and “sacred cow” — contained asbestos, which the mineral might be dangerous.
“A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the security of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer,” the court said.
The plaintiffs “showed clear and convincing evidence defendants engaged in conduct that was outrageous due to evil motive or reckless indifference,” the court said.
The court awarded $500 million in compensatory damages and $1.62 billion in exemplary damages, reducing the first award of $550 million in actual damages and $4.14 billion in exemplary damages after dismissing claims by a number of the plaintiffs.
Johnson & Johnson has argued that faulty testing methods and shoddy science were liable for findings of asbestos in its products. But thousands of individuals — mostly women with ovarian cancer — have sued, saying they were never warned of the potential risks.
The main ingredient in powder and lots of other bath powders was talc, a natural mineral known for its softness. Talc also helped lend powder its unique fragrance, said to be one among the foremost recognizable within the world.
In 1980, after consumer advocates raised concerns that talc contained traces of asbestos, an infamous carcinogen, the corporate developed an alternate powder made up of cornstarch.
Though talcum has been promoted as soft and delicate enough for babies and is sold with other infant products in stores, adult women have long been the most purchasers, using the powder in pubic areas and to stop chafing between the legs. many ladies in hot climates use powder to remain dry.
Early lawsuits against the corporate pointed to talc as an explanation for ovarian cancer, though the scientific evidence wasn’t conclusive. In later cases, plaintiffs’ lawyers zeroed in on asbestos contamination because the culprit, saying the carcinogen could cause cancer even in trace amounts.
Talc is employed in many cosmetic products, including lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, blush and foundation. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued several alerts warning that asbestos had been found in makeup, including eye shadow sold at Claire’s, a retailer fashionable teenage girls.
Talc and asbestos are natural minerals, and their underground deposits develop under similar geological conditions. As a result, veins of asbestos may crisscross talc deposits in mines.
Indeed, internal memos unearthed during litigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been concerned about the likelihood of asbestos contamination in its talc for a minimum of 50 years. Asbestos was first linked to ovarian cancer in 1958, and therefore the International Agency for Research on Cancer affirmed it had been an explanation for cancer during a 2011 report.
As of March, Johnson & Johnson faced quite 19,000 lawsuits associated with talc body powders. So far, the legal record has been mixed, with the corporate prevailing in some cases and losing in others. it’s appealing nearly all of the cases it’s lost.
Late last year, Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of powder after F.D.A. investigators said that they had discovered asbestos during a bottle bought from a web retailer. But the corporate later said its own tests exonerated the merchandise.
Johnson & Johnson is avoiding lawsuits on other fronts also, most notable ones associated with opioids. In August 2019, an Oklahoma judge ruled that the corporate had oversold the advantages of the drugs while playing down the risks, and ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million in damages.
In October, in an unrelated case that involved the major tranquilizer Risperdal, a Philadelphia jury ordered the corporate to pay $8 billion to a Maryland man who claimed he had been harmed by using the drug.
Johnson & Johnson is one among several companies racing to develop a vaccine to guard against the coronavirus. the corporate recently announced it might move up the beginning date for its safety trials in humans to the top of July. Johnson & Johnson has already signed deals with the federal to form enough manufacturing capacity to make quite a billion doses of a vaccine, once it’s found safe and effective.
“At some point, there’s a reputational question that mass tort cases bring, and they’re getting to need to worry,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor who teaches about product liability at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
“They’ve built their entire reputation on being a family-friendly product producer,” Mr. Tobias said. “The classic example of that’s talc, and therefore the injuries these women suffered are severe.”