St Louis Jury Awards $4.7 Billion in Case Involving Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented thousands of men and women who have been injured or killed by diseases they developed after asbestos exposure. Some of the products that have contained asbestos might surprise you. In recent years, there have been cases involving talcum powder that was contaminated with asbestos. In some cases, the plaintiffs alleged that the contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a rare cancer almost always associated with asbestos exposure. More recently, a St. Louis jury awarded a $4.7 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson in favor of 22 women or their families where the women developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder.

The trial, which lasted from June 4, 2018 to July 12, 2018, involved 22 women or their estates who alleged that the women developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for many years. The unanimous verdict awarded $4.7 billion, consisting of $550 million in compensatory damages to compensate the plaintiffs for their losses (roughly $25 million per family), and $4.14 billion in punitive damages to punish and deter bad conduct. 

Photo via Unsplash

The jury reportedly determined the amount of punitive damages to award by multiplying $70 million (the amount of money Johnson & Johnson earned in 2017 from selling baby powder) by 43 years (the number of years that have elapsed since Johnson & Johnson denied that its baby powder contained asbestos). According to an unnamed female juror, “We were just trying to find something they would feel.” State law in Missouri limits the amount of punitive damages to five times the amount of compensatory damages, so Johnson & Johnson will probably file a motion to reduce the amount of punitive damages.

Plaintiff’s counsel issued a statement following the trial saying that Johnson & Johnson knew that their talcum powder products contained asbestos but failed to either pull them from the market or add a serious warning to the packaging. Counsel also pointed out that Johnson & Johnson sold a safe version of their baby powder that contained corn starch instead of talcum powder, but continued to market the talcum powder version without suitable warnings. 

Johnson & Johnson issued a statement after the trial saying that their talcum powder products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer, and that they intend to appeal from the result in the trial court.    Johnson & Johnson is currently defending over 9,000 cases involving talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but most of them have not involved claims asbestos contamination.

If you or a loved one has developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after using talcum powder products, please contact us for a free initial consultation. You may call us at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) or reach us through our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.

Sources

Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 14, 2018 “How Did Jury Arrive At $4.69 Billion Verdict in Talcum Powder Case?”  https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/how-did-jury-arrive-at-billion-verdict-in-talcum-powder/article_0ea0da33-d4ed-5966-39fa90c13b20.html

Robert Patrick & Joel Gurrier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 2018, “Talc Cancer Verdict of $4.6 Billion From St. Louis Jury Sends ‘Very Powerful Message,’” https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/talc-cancer-verdict-of-billion-from-st-louis-jury-sends/article_c15e7f98-fce-80ee-45371d5e98b1.html

Kansas City Star Editorial Board, July 14, 2018, “Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer? St. Louis Jury Says Yes With $4.69 Billion Verdict,” https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article214857390.html

Alai Paavola, Becker’s Hospital Review, July 16, 2018, “J&J Hit With $4.7B Verdict in St. Louis Talcum Powder-Cancer Case,” https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/j-j-hit-with-4-7b-verdict-in-st-louis-talc

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