A St. Louis jury decided Thursday that Johnson & Johnson must pay $550 million in actual damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages to 22 plaintiffs who claim the company’s talcum products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
J&J, the Brunswick, New Jersey-based consumer products behemoth, has faced multiple trials in St. Louis regarding ovarian cancer claims. The company has lost four of the first five to go to trial.
Two of those verdicts have been erased on jurisdictional grounds, and the two others are being challenged on the same basis.
Plaintiffs in the latest trial included people suing on behalf of relatives who died or currently have adverse health effects. Compensatory damages will average $25 million for each plaintiff.
Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, argued that Johnson & Johnson knew that asbestos contaminated its talcum products and prevented the public from discovering it. He also said that if asbestos showed up in testing, the company sent the products to a lab it knew would produce different results.
The company denied those allegations, and maintains that its products are safe.
The trial differed from previous talcum powder cases by focusing on the women’s claims that their ovarian cancer was caused by asbestos allegedly found in the talcum powder. Asbestos is a mineral that has been linked to mesothelioma. This is the country’s first case against Johnson & Johnson testing such claims.