Johnson & Johnson Told to Pay $4.7 Billion in Baby Powder Lawsuit.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.
Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Johnson’s Baby Powder, said it was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict and planned to appeal. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this spring.
After a six-week trial, the jury in St. Louis deliberated over the compensatory damages for eight hours but decided on the punitive damages in roughly 45 minutes, said Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women.
“There were people crying, people hugging,” he added. “It’s been quite an emotional scene.”
Mr. Lanier said Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products and should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch.
Johnson & Johnson called the verdict “the product of a fundamentally unfair process” that combined 22 women with few connections to Missouri into a single group of plaintiffs in St. Louis.
The company “remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies,” it said in a statement.
Suing in clusters also maximizes the emotional effect of the women’s stories on juries, Mr. Lanier said.
“It’s easier to get justice in small groups,” he said. “In small groups, people have names, but in large groups, they’re numbers.”
What is talcum powder made of?
Talcum powder is made from talc, which is a clay mineral composed of silicon, magnesium, and oxygen.
People have taken advantage of its soft and absorbent properties since the time of the ancient Egyptians.
In talc’s most natural form, it contains asbestos, which is known to cause cancer in the lungs when inhaled, but all talcum products in the US have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.
Now talc is used for a variety of reasons: as a baby powder, in chewing gum and sweets, and even in olive oil.
What is baby powder used for?
Baby powder is used to help absorb moisture on the skin and to prevent odors when it is used as the deodorant.
It can also be used to prevent friction and to protect against rashes.
Baby powder can also be used as a cleaning agent and as shampoo.
Does talcum powder cause cancer?
Some studies have found that women who regularly use talc on their genital area face up to a 40 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Other research, however, has shown either no link or a weak link between cancer the product and most major health groups have declared talc harmless.
But the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the genital use of talc as “possibly carcinogenic”.