A jury in St. Louis found on Thursday that
Johnson and Johnson
should pay $ 4.69 billion in damages to 22 women and their families who blamed the company's iconic baby powder for asbestos ovarian cancer, the single highest verdict in such cases so far.
The jury awarded $ 550 million and then added $ 4,14 billion in punitive damages against the company for allegedly not realizing that its talcum powder raised the risk of ovarian cancer.
J & J said he was "deeply disappointed" with the verdict, which the company said was the product of a "fundamentally unfair trial" "and plans to appeal.
Punitive damages, especially those much higher than damages compensatory, are often reduced by the trial judge or revoked on appeal
J & J managed to have many jury verdicts overturned, sometimes for jurisdictional technical reasons, and last month, a Missouri appellate court rejected a $ 55 million verdict against J & J, alleging that the Claimant of South Dakota lacked jurisdiction.
Compensatory damages awarded by the jury in Missouri state court exceeded $ 417 million awarded by juries at Los Angel it's last year, although that trial involved only one plaintiff. A judge later reversed that verdict.
The latest verdict is the first in a series of personal injury trials that prove some plaintiffs' claim that asbestos in J & J's talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer.
The plaintiffs' attorneys argued during the six-week trial that the asbestos fibers mixed with the talcum used to make Johnson's Baby Powder entered the bodies of women who used the product every day for decades for feminine hygiene. Six of the women claimants had died.
"If J & J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning."
The plaintiffs' attorneys argued that talc causes mesothelioma in other cases, including a lawsuit in California in which a jury awarded a woman $ 25.75 million and a case in South Carolina that ended in a hung jury.
The science of a link between talcum powder and cancer is uncertain. The American Cancer Society says some studies that look at whether dust can cause cancer in the ovaries have found a small spike in risk, while others found no increase.
Officials at J & J say that repeated reviews of the science did not show evidence supporting a link and the company did not need to add a warning about an increased risk of cancer.
The company has decided to fight the lawsuits on a case-by-case basis, even though it has been trying to avoid recalls, government investigations and various lawsuits over various products. J & J is preparing to launch a renewed line of Johnson & # 39; s Baby products, including dust.
Write to Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com and Sara Randazzo at email@example.com