A jury in St. Louis has awarded twenty-two plaintiffs $550 million in damages in a lawsuit against consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson. The suit alleged asbestos contained in the company’s talcum powder gave the plaintiffs cancer.
The jury also awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages. According to the plaintiffs, the company’s powder caused ovarian cancer in women who used the product over a period of years.
Roughly $25 million was awarded to each family that sued, including six individuals who sued on behalf of relatives who had passed away and other plaintiffs who had spouses who they say fell ill because of product use.
One of the plaintiffs, a woman by the name of Toni Roberts, has been receiving chemotherapy in Virginia but says she is now terminal. “I feel like justice has been served,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it was “deeply disappointed” and that it would be appealing the decision.
“Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies. Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” the statement reads.
Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Lanier called on Johnson & Johnson to discontinue sale of its talc powder before “causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”
“J&J sells the same powders in a marvelously safe corn starch variety. If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning,” he said.
There have been other lawsuits over Johnson & Johnson’s talc powder but Lanier told the jurors in this case they were the first to see internal company documents showing the company had knowledge its products contained asbestos as well as failures to warn consumers.
Lanier asked jurors to use their punitive verdict to “say something Johnson & Johnson will hear.”
“You can change the world,” he told them.
Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr