J&J to Pay $550 Million in Asbestos Case

Jury Orders J&J to Pay $550 Million in Asbestos Case

A Missouri jury has found in favor of 22 women who alleged that the talc-based products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, including its iconic Baby Powder, contain asbestos and caused their ovarian cancer. In response to the verdict, the company has been ordered to pay $550 million in compensatory damages.

J&J to Pay $550 Million in Asbestos CaseIn addition, reports several news outlets, J&J will also be required to pay punitive damages. The amount of those damages will be decided in a second stage of the trial, set to take place shortly.

The women also sued Imerys SA, the company that supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson. Imerys agreed to pay “at least $5 million” to settle the claims with the plaintiffs without having to go to trial.

Thursday’s $550 million verdict, before any punitive damages, is already the third-largest jury award in the U.S. in 2018, according to data compiled by the news outlet, Bloomberg.

But it was a long haul to reach this verdict. The trial involving the 22 women lasted for five weeks, during which time the jury heard from some of the plaintiffs as well as more than a dozen experts representing both sides.

But the statement by the jury – in the end – rang loud and clear.

They definitively believed that J&J knew their talc was contaminated with asbestos yet believe the company refused to do anything about it and failed to warn consumers of the risk associated with the use of their talcum-based products.

Why would they do this? Why put millions of lives at risk?

Attorneys for the plaintiffs called Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder the company’s “sacred cow”, one they didn’t wish to taint by admitting the presence of asbestos.

So, they rigged tests, he argued, sending samples from lab to lab until they got the results they wanted. Johnson & Johnson denies those allegations.

J&J “hired the best labs in the country year after year after year’’ to test for asbestos, said J&J counsel, Peter A. Bicks.

“Then someone at J&J decides to expose babies to asbestos? Why all the testing?’’ Mineral traces in the talc aren’t proof of asbestos contamination,” Bicks added. “These fibers aren’t asbestos but harmless mineral fragments.”

“While we are disappointed with this decision, the jury has further deliberations to conduct in this trial and we will reserve additional comment until the case is fully completed,” Carol Goodrich, J&J spokeswoman, noted in a statement to the press.

J&J also continues to fight battles against plaintiffs who allege that their talc products caused mesothelioma cancer, a disease for which the only known cause is exposure to asbestos.

The company has lost a few of those cases and has triumphed in a few. The most recent in California netted an award of $25.7 million for the plaintiff, a woman dying of pleural mesothelioma.