Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn over talc link to ovarian cancer

Multinational company Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay a record $4.7 billion to 22 women who blamed their ovarian cancer on use of its talc-based products.

A six-man, six-woman jury in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St Louis, Missouri heard six weeks of testimony and deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdict.

The jury award includes $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company.

Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the women and their families, introduced expert evidence that sought to link talc, the primary ingredient in J&J products such as baby powder, to asbestos.

Medical experts testified that microscopic asbestos fibres enter the body when talcum powder is inhaled or applied to the genital area. Such fibres were found in the ovarian tissues of many of the women.

Following the verdict, Mr Lanier of Lanier Law Firm said: “We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer.

“The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease. J&J sells the same powders in a marvelously safe corn starch variety. If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning.”

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it was “deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process”.

The company plans to appeal and added: “Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed.”

Photo credit: Austin Kirk, CC-BY 2.0