Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $155 million in US talc-powder trial

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $155 million in US talc-powder trial
PHOTO: Reuters

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) on Thursday was ordered by a Missouri jury to pay over US$110 million (S$155 million) to a Virginia woman who says she developed ovarian cancer after decades of using of its talc-based products for feminine hygiene.

The verdict in state court in St. Louis was the largest so far to arise out of about 2,400 lawsuits accusing J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of talc-based products including its well-known Johnson's Baby Powder.

Many of those lawsuits are pending in St. Louis, where the J&J has faced four prior trials, three of which resulted in US$197 million verdicts against J&J and a talc supplier.

Thursday's verdict came in a lawsuit against J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc by Lois Slemp, a resident of Virginia who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer initially diagnosed in 2012 returned and spread to her liver.

Slemp claimed she developed cancer after four decades of using talc-containing products produced by J&J, including J&J's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder.

The jury awarded US$5.4 million in compensatory damages and said J&J was 99 per cent at fault while Imerys was just 1 per cent.

It awarded punitive damages of US$105 million against J&J and $50,000 against Imerys.

Reuters watched the verdict through Courtroom View Network, which broadcast it online.

"Once again we've shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America," Ted Meadows, a lawyer for Slemp and other plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Once again we've shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America

Ted Meadows, lawyer

J&J in a statement said it sympathized with women impacted by ovarian cancer but planned to appeal.

"We are preparing for additional trials this year and we continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," J&J said.

The verdict came after J&J secured its first trial win in the Missouri litigation, when a jury in March sided with the company in a lawsuit by a Tennessee woman who said she developed cancer after using Baby Powder.

That verdict broke a three-trial winning streak by plaintiffs that began with a verdict in February 2016 in which a jury awarded US$72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.

In May 2016, another jury awarded US$55 million to a woman who said J&J's talc-powder products caused her to develop cancer.

A third jury hit J&J and Imerys with a US$70 million verdict in October. The case is Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson, 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri, No. 1422-CC09326-01.

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