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Talcum powder on a black surface with a large "X" drawn through it
Chaffin Luhana LLP
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Due to a declining demand related to talc-based health risks, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has stopped producing its Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. The company maintains that its products are safe, however, and has appealed verdicts lost in talc-based lawsuits.

One of those verdicts was handed down by a St. Louis jury. They awarded $4.7 billion in damages to the plaintiff, finding that J&J’s product contributed to her ovarian cancer. J&J appealed that verdict, but a Missouri appeals court recently rejected the appeal.

Missouri Court Awards $4.7 Billion in Talc Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit

A group of women who alleged that J&J’s talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer filed the Missouri lawsuit. During the six-week trial, the women and their families said they developed cancer after using the products for decades. Of the 22 women represented in the case, six died from ovarian cancer.

J&J denied that its products were dangerous and insisted they did not cause cancer. The plaintiffs, however, alleged that as far back as the 1970s, the company was aware that its talc could be tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, yet failed to warn consumers about the risks. The plaintiffs referred to company documents and memos showing the company’s raw talc sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs $550 million in compensatory and over $4.1 billion in punitive damages. It was one of the largest personal injury awards on record.

Missouri Appeals Court Throws Out J&J Bid for Dismissal

J&J appealed the verdict, calling the initial trial “fundamentally flawed.” The company requested the Missouri appeals court throw out the St. Louis jury’s decision, but the appeals court rejected that request. At the same time, it reduced the amount of the verdict, dropping it to $2.1 billion—$500 million in actual damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages.

The reason for the reduction was that some of the plaintiffs were from out of state and should not have been included in the case. The appeals court agreed, however, that monetary damages were needed to dissuade other companies from similarly endangering the public.

J&J has vowed to appeal the decision again to the Missouri Supreme Court. “We remain confident that our talc is safe,” company spokeswoman Kim Montagnino said in a statement, “asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”

Thousands of Lawsuits Proceeding Against J&J In New Jersey

J&J currently faces more than 19,000 lawsuits concerning its talc-based products. The company tried to get thousands of those lawsuits dismissed earlier this year by filing a motion with MDL judge Freda L. Wolfson to block the plaintiffs’ expert testimony. The company claimed it wasn’t scientifically sound or reliable.

In April 2020, Judge Wolfson ruled that scientific and medical experts proposed by the plaintiffs were qualified to testify regarding the link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, though she did limit some of the opinions. This ruling allowed the cases to move forward.

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