Johnson & Johnson shares dip after massive talcum powder judgment

Plaintiff Gail Ingham foreground stands outside the civil courthouse with attorneys Lee Cirsch Eric Holland and Mark Lanier. A jury awarded nearly $US4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families who claimed asbestos in Johnso

Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process that allowed plaintiffs to present a group of 22 women, most of whom had no connection to Missouri, in a single case all alleging that they developed ovarian cancer.

After announcing that award, the jury deliberated further and added $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company. Johnson & Johnson sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said. Johnson & Johnson sold the product to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International in 2012.

The women claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos allegedly found in the baby powder.

The company has had a better record with judges than juries in the ovarian cancer cases. There are thousands of cases now making their way through court systems all around the country. All of those cases are in various stages of appeal. But that 2017 verdict by a California jury, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, was overturned on appeal, and challenges to at least another five verdicts are pending. Goodrich predicted the verdict would be reversed. Two of those plaintiffs' verdicts, one for US$72 million and the other for US$55 million, have been erased on appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

The science is still up for debate.

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.

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Suing in clusters also maximises the emotional effect of the women's stories on juries, Mr Lanier said. Other studies have not shown a connection. A 2013 review of American studies involving 18,000 women had similar results for genital talcum powder use, but not general use. In the U.S., government agencies and medical associations that track what causes cancer believe the topic needs more research to know for sure.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos. "Then someone at J&J decides to expose babies to asbestos?" 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. Deane Berg had used the company's baby talcum powder for more than 40 years and discovered she had developed ovarian cancer in 2006.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Mark Lanier, said in a statement that J&J should either pull its talc products from shelves or mark them with a "serious warning".

Doctors have noticed that talc particles have been in cancer tumors for decades, but it's been unclear how the contamination happened and if it led to the cancer.

Johnson & Johnson, which is now battling some 9,000 legal cases involving its signature baby powder, said it was "deeply disappointed" and planned to appeal.

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