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

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

A Missouri jury initially awarded $550 million in compensation accompanied by $4.1 billion in punitive damages.

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. Johnson & Johnson is now battling around 9000 talc cases.

The firm said it would appeal the verdict and described the proceedings as "unfair". The company said the "multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

J&J says there is no asbestos in its baby powder and other talc-based products, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a survey in 2009 and 2010 that seemed to back this up.

Mark Lanier, the Houston-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented jurors with internal company documents revealing Johnson & Johnson knew of the asbestos in its products and failed to warn consumers.

Johnson & Johnson "rigged" tests to avoid showing the presence of asbestos, Mr. Lanier said.

"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", he said.

"Some (of the plaintiffs) are truly on their death bed and fighting for every day of their lives, and several of them came back for the jury verdict and were hugging the necks of those jurors", said Lanier.

A jury ruled in Johnson & Johnson's favor in one lawsuit in California last November. The other two are on appeal, facing the same challenges from Johnson & Johnson. After attorneys fees, the state of Missouri takes a whopping 50% of punitive damage awards and keeps the money for itself under this state law, which appears to apply to this type of punitive damage award.

But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the proper detection of asbestos fibers. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Bicks said.

A St. Louis jury has awarded $550 million to almost two dozen women who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos.

The plaintiff in the Los Angeles case has since died, and the verdict was overturned and a new trial granted. However, there are questions about whether asbestos-free talc, which is the form used in modern-day products, poses a similar risk, according to the association. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues.

Johnson & Johnson denied the claim and insisted that their products do not cause cancer.

Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.

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