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By: Marilyn McGoldrick, Esq.

UPDATE: The trial judge, Judge Rex Burlison, upheld the verdict on appeal, stating that “substantial evidence was adduced at trial of particularly reprehensible conduct” and that the jury was entitled to draw the conclusion from the evidence that Johnson & Johnson “knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades.”

Twenty-two women who had ovarian cancer were awarded a total of $4.69 billion dollars in their claims against Johnson & Johnson. All the cancer-stricken women had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talcum powder for many years. This is by far the largest verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a talc cancer case to date. The Missouri state court jury awarded a total of $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, and added a punitive damage award of $4.14 billion dollars. It is the largest verdict in a jury trial in the United States in 2018.

The plaintiffs presented evidence about the carcinogenic properties of both talc and asbestos. A 1971 article about  talc and carcinoma of the ovary and cervix was introduced as evidence. The plaintiffs presented evidence that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products also contained asbestos. They disputed Johnson & Johnson’s tests showing its talc didn’t contain asbestos, presenting evidence that the tests were rigged by only finding asbestos if a certain level was present, or testing extremely small sample sizes. Evidence presented indicating that if tests did find asbestos, Johnson and Johnson then sent the talc to a different lab for testing. Memos and reports were introduced from Johnson & Johnson scientists going back decades showing concern over asbestos in the talc in J&J’s powders.

This verdict is the latest in a series of verdicts against Johnson and Johnson in talc cancer cases.  Five previous cases were tried against J&J in St. Louis, and four resulted in verdicts for the plaintiff. Individual verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs of $55 million dollars and $72 million dollars were reversed after the United States Supreme Court issued a new decision on the issue of personal jurisdiction. The other two verdicts, for $110 million dollars and  $70 million dollars are still on appeal. In California, a jury awarded the plaintiff a $417 million verdict, in a talc ovarian cancer case,  but that verdict was reversed by the trial judge.

One juror interviewed after this verdict stated that the punitive damages amount, $4.14 billion, was calculated by multiplying the annual revenue from baby powder ($70 million) by the number of years Johnson & Johnson had known talc was an issue. Punitive damages in Missouri are limited by state law to five times the amount of actual damages, so the punitive damage award will be reduced. Johnson and Johnson has indicated it will appeal the verdict.

It is recommended that women who use talcum powder switch to arrowroot, cornstarch, or any other non-talc powder. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder, call the talc powder lawyers at Thornton Law Firm for a  confidential, no charge consultation. Thornton Law Firm has represented victims of asbestos exposure for 40 years. Call Attorney Marilyn McGoldrick at 1-888-341-1405 or tell us your story online for a thorough, comprehensive evaluation of your legal rights. If you have developed ovarian cancer, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Personal injury claims have very short time limits that are strictly enforced by the courts. Do not put off getting a legal opinion.