Jury now considering punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn about cancer risk
ST. LOUIS – A jury has awarded $550 million in compensatory damages to 22 women and their families who alleged that decades of daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) asbestos-laden talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer. The verdict triggers a second damages phase where the jury will consider imposing punitive damages to punish Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn about cancer risks from talc and asbestos.
The six-man, six-woman jury in Judge Rex M. Burlison’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis heard six weeks of testimony and deliberated eight hours before returning the first-phase verdict. Deliberations over punitive awards for the 22 plaintiffs are ongoing at this time.
While there have been other trials in which juries have determined that talc products contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma cancer, this case marks the first talc/asbestos-induced ovarian cancer verdict in the United States. Jurors heard evidence that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products have been laced with asbestos for decades, in spite of the representations J&J made to the FDA and others.
Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the women and their families, introduced evidence from scientific experts to explain how asbestos, a well-known carcinogen, is intermingled with the mineral talc. Talc is the primary ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
Medical experts testified that microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body when talcum powder is inhaled or applied to the genital area. Asbestos fibers and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of many of the women.
“For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products,” said Mr. Lanier. “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.”
Many of the women took the stand at trial to talk about their use of the products and how ovarian cancer affected their quality of life. Six of the plaintiffs have died and were represented at trial by spouses and family members.
In addition to Mr. Lanier, the trial team includes attorneys Lee Cirsch, Rachel Lanier, Dr. Robert Leone, Michael Akselrud, Monica Cooper, Mildred Conroy and Zarah Levin-Fragasso of the Lanier Law Firm. Co-counsel Eric D. Holland of the Holland Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri, was also integrally involved in the trial.
The Lanier Law Firm has offices in Houston, Oklahoma City, New York, and Los Angeles. For close to 30 years, the firm has worked tirelessly to find unique solutions to its clients’ unique needs. The firm is composed of more than 60 skilled attorneys, practicing in a broad array of areas, including business fraud, asbestos exposure, commercial litigation, personal injury, oil and gas litigation, among others. Visit lanierlawfirm.com.