A lawsuit in the case of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder ended with the decision of the jury to pay the victims more than $ 4.5 billion. J&J denies the presence of asbestos in its products and pledged to appeal.
A jury in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, decided that the company must pay 22 plaintiffs $ 550 million in compensation for material damage and more than $ 4 billion for non-pecuniary damage. After the announcement of the verdict, the plaintiffs, members of their families and lawyers gathered around the jury, embracing them with gratitude. “God bless you,” many said with tears in their eyes, the agency said.
The plaintiffs argued that the presence of asbestos in the baby powder had led to the development of ovarian cancers among those using this product. The company is accused of not warning women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodwin, said the company would appeal this decision. The verdict “was the product of a fundamentally unfair process that allowed plaintiffs to present a group of 22 women, most of whom had no connection to Missouri, in a single case all alleging that they developed ovarian cancer,” she said in an email. According to the spokesman, “the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice.”
The plaintiff’s lawyer stated that J&J knew about the contamination of its products with asbestos and kept this information secret from the public. He said he was sure that the company falsified the tests so as not to show the presence of this substance. “If the test showed the presence of asbestos, J&J sent him to a laboratory that, as the company knew, gave different results,” the lawyer told the jury.
Professor of law at St. John’s University in New York, Anthony Sabino told Bloomberg that, in accordance with the guidelines of the Supreme Court, a fine of $ 4 billion is likely to be considered excessive so J&J has a good chance to reduce this amount.
The company denies the charge of contamination of its products with asbestos or in the falsification of test results.
Johnson & Johnson has already lost several talc lawsuits. The largest fine in this case was taken in August last year by the jury of the Supreme Court of Los Angeles, obliging the company to pay $ 417 million to a woman who said she fell ill with ovarian cancer after using J&J products based on talc. An appeal court reversed the verdict.
A New Jersey judge in 2016 stalled lawsuits in that state by tossing two cases set for trial, also finding a lack of scientific evidence.