Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7b

J&J denies claims its talc products contain asbestos

Image J&J denies claims its talc products contain asbestos

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed the company's baby powder caused ovarian cancer.

The plaintiffs in this case-one of several related lawsuits playing out across the country-argued that asbestos in some of the brand's baby and body powders led them to develop ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson called the verdict the result of an unfair process that allowed the women to sue the company in Missouri despite majority not living in the state, and said it would appeal - as it has in previous cases that found for women who sued the company.

The pharmaceutical company said it was "deeply disappointed" in the outcome and called the trial process "fundamentally unfair".

Johnson & Johnson "rigged" tests to avoid showing the presence of asbestos, Mr. Lanier said. Asbestos, a well-known cancer-causing agent, is often mined near talc.

The majority of the 22 women were from outside the state of Missouri. Jurors heard evidence that Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products have been laced with asbestos for decades, in spite of the representations J&J made to the FDA and others. These fibers aren't asbestos but harmless mineral fragments, he said.

One juror, Evan Klene, 24, a financial analyst, said the jury tried "to understand the totality of what these women went through".

Six of the women have died; nearly all of the rest, along with friends and relatives, were in the courtroom Thursday.

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J&J says decades of testing by laboratories and independent agencies, including a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, support its position.

His studies and the many others that found a relationship used a case-control approach: A group of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and a group without it were asked to recall their past diet and activities, and the results were then compared. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues.

The company has also had a better record with judges than juries in the ovarian cancer cases. Another mesothelioma case in late May ended in a mistrial.

At trial J&J had unsuccessfully sought to cast doubt on the 15 women's claims to have used the same product that was only available for a few months, depicting it as a ruse created to bypass the jurisdiction issue.

The punitive part of the St. Louis verdict may be particularly vulnerable to post-trial challenges or appeals.

The $4.69 billion award is the largest jury award in the United States this year, Bloomberg reported. The verdict, unanimously decided by a jury in Missouri, US, is the largest fine that the multinational company has faced to date. Those plaintiffs will receive money from the $550 million in compensatory damages.

Thursday's massive verdict was handed down in the Circuit Court of the city of St Louis.

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