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Jury hits J&J with $4 billion in punitive damages

A jury in Missouri recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $4 billion in damages to 22 women who allege that they developed ovarian cancer after decades-long use of the company's talc-based products. The record verdict -- $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages -- was handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. The jury arrived at its decision after listening to more than five weeks of testimony in which nearly a dozen experts took the stand, offering their perspectives on both sides of the issue.

Jury finds that J&J knew its products were contaminated

Extended use of talc-based products -- baby powder and cosmetics -- exposed the plaintiffs to cancer-causing asbestos. They allege that J&J has known since the 1970s that its talc products contained asbestos but neglected to warn consumers of the potential risks.

Talc is a mineral that is often found close to asbestos, and plaintiffs claim that the two can be combined when talc is being mined.

Related litigation

Johnson & Johnson is facing as many as 9,000 cases involving its talc-based products. While most of the cases allege that the products cause ovarian cancer, a percentage claims that talc causes mesothelioma, an incurable cancer.

J&J has faced similar litigation in the past. In many instances, rulings against the company were overturned on appeal. In 2017, a California jury awarded plaintiffs a massive $417 million verdict, but it was later overturned. In Missouri, other judgments in favor of plaintiffs were later reversed. In at least five other talc cases, challenges to the verdicts are pending. J&J has promised to appeal the decision handed down in St. Louis.

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