A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday ordered Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay $ 2.1 billion in damages to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on the company’s talc products, including its iconic talc for babies.
The decision more than halved a record $ 4.69 billion award in compensatory and punitive damages to women, which was made in July 2018.
Johnson & Johnson still faces thousands of consumer lawsuits claiming that their talc products were contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. The company announced last month that it would stop selling baby powder made from talc in North America, although it continued to market the product in other parts of the world.
A spokeswoman said Johnson & Johnson would seek a further review of the Missouri Supreme Court decision and defended its talc products as safe.
“We continue to believe that this was a fundamentally flawed judgment, based on a flawed presentation of the facts,” said Kim Montagnino. “We continue to trust that our talc is safe, asbestos-free, and cancer-free.”
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Mark Lanier, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs, urged consumers to discard any baby powder they may have in their homes. Five of the plaintiffs who pursued the case have died since the jury trial ended in 2018, he said.
Since this is a civil lawsuit, “all you can do is fine them, and we need to fine them enough for the industry to wake up and take notice,” added Mr. Lanier.
In its decision, the appeals court noted that the company’s internal memos from the 1960s indicated that its talc products, called the “golden egg,” “the company’s trust mark,” and “holy cow,” contained asbestos, and that the mineral could be dangerous.
“A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by the gains, the defendants ignored the safety of consumers despite knowing that the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer,” the court said.
The plaintiffs “showed clear and convincing evidence that the defendants engaged in scandalous conduct due to evil motives or reckless disregard.”
The court awarded $ 500 million in actual damages and $ 1.62 billion in punitive damages, reducing the original award of $ 550 million in compensatory damages and $ 4.14 billion in punitive damages after dismissing claims by some of the plaintiffs.