Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has been ordered to pay more than $110 million by a St. Louis jury in a case linked to the company’s talcum powder products. After three weeks of testimony, a 12-person jury deliberated for 10 hours before delivering the verdict against J&J. The jury’s verdict included $105 million in punitive damages against J&J.
A Virginia woman sued the company, blaming her ovarian cancer on her use of the company’s talcum products. Lois Slemp, 62, said she used J&J’s baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2012. She also claimed that J&J talc was contaminated with asbestos. Slemp is currently undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend the trial. Her cancer has since spread to her liver.
An attorney for the plaintiff told jurors that J&J didn’t warn women of studies linking talc to ovarian cancer to protect the company’s image. The attorney said, “They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny.”
A company lawyer claimed during the trial that J&J’s products didn’t cause Slemp’s cancer and doesn’t contain asbestos. The lawyer also argued J&J doesn’t need to warn women about talc because there is no link and that government and professional scientific organizations have determined talc is safe. However, in 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talc as a possible carcinogen.
Numerous plaintiffs have filed lawsuits accusing the company of ignoring studies linking its products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk. There are more than 3,000 lawsuits pending over the company’s baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products. More than 1,000 of these lawsuits have been filed in St. Louis. Missouri law allows suits to be brought there by people with no connection to the state. The company also faces multiple federal class-action suits in the matter, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
The company has already lost several similar cases. J&J lost jury verdicts of $72 million, $55 million and $70 million last year, while winning the first trial in 2017. J&J is appealing the trial losses. J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said, “We are preparing for additional trials this year and will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”