Trial Lawyer Mark Lanier: Decision will finally result in compensation for talc-cancer victims
HOUSTON – By denying Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to overturn a $2.1 billion award to a group of women who developed ovarian cancer after exposure to its talcum powder products, the U.S. Supreme Court has sent a strong message to corporate America says Mark Lanier, the lead trial counsel for the women and their families.
“This was a victory not just for the amazing women and their families who we were privileged to represent, but a victory for justice,” says Mr. Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston. “This decision sends a clear message to everyone: you will be held to account when you cause grievous harm under our system of equal justice under law.”
In its petition for certiorari before the court, Johnson & Johnson sought to toss a decision by a Missouri appellate court that unanimously upheld a St. Louis jury’s determination that the company engaged in “reprehensible conduct” by manufacturing and selling asbestos-containing talcum powder products over the course of many decades.
In a thorough 83-page opinion, that court upheld $2.11 billion of a $4.69 billion unanimous jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary JJCI that followed a six-week trial in July 2018. The 22 claimants had used the talc-based powders daily for many years, unaware that the products contained asbestos. Several of the women died from the disease prior to the trial, while others have died in the intervening years.
In its June 2020 opinion, the Missouri Court of Appeals found “evidence that Defendants discussed the presence of asbestos in their talc in internal memoranda for several decades; avoided adopting more accurate measures for detecting asbestos and influenced the industry to do the same; attempted to discredit those scientists publishing studies unfavorable to their Products; and did not eliminate talc from the Products and use cornstarch instead because it would be more costly to do so.”
The Missouri Supreme Court refused to further consider the appeal by J&J, leading to the filing of the certiorari petition by the company earlier this year. Numerous business-backed organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, filed briefs and published articles in support of J&J.
“Given today’s decision, J&J should move forward in honoring the judgment of the Missouri courts,” says Mr. Lanier. “Jury awards that are solidly based on the evidence should not be set aside, especially when the jury determines justice calls for significant punitive damages due to outrageous corporate behavior.”
About the Lanier Law Firm
For more than 30 years, the men and women at The Lanier Law Firm have worked tirelessly, throughout the United States, to find unique and effective solutions for their clients. More than 60 skilled attorneys practice law in a broad array of areas, including business litigation, pharmaceutical litigation, asbestos exposure, oil and gas litigation, personal injury as well as defective and dangerous products, among others. Named an Elite Trial Law Firm by The National Law Journal, The Lanier Law Firm has offices in Houston, New York and Los Angeles.