Johnson&Johnson told to pay $4.7bn in baby powder lawsuit

A jury in St Louis, Missouri, on Thursday ordered US pharmaceutical giant Johnson&Johnson to pay $550 million in actual damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages to 22 women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talcum powder for years, agencies report.

The petitioners alleged that the talcum powder contained cancer-causing asbestos which the company knew but concealed from users for more than four decades. Six of the women already died of cancer and relatives sued the company on their behalf.

This was incidentally the first trial against Johnson&Johnson in the US over asbestos claims in its talcum powder.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer of the victims, said the company should withdraw its talc products from the market or mark them with a serious warning.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that its products neither contain asbestos nor cause ovarian cancer. Thursday’s ruling after an unfair trial was deeply disappointing, it said.

Every verdict in St Louis court against the company that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed. The latest trial contained more errors than in the previous ones which had been reversed, the statement added.

Petitioners welcomed the court ruling and hugged each other outside the court room. Plaintiff Cecilia Martinez, of Dallas, told St Louis newspaper that she hopes the case will make Johnson&Johnson make changes to protect mothers and babies.

Another plaintiff Toni Roberts, who has been receiving chemotherapy in Virginia, said she feels justice has been served.