Women Awarded Almost $5 Billion In Damages from J&J

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A St. Louis jury on Thursday awarded almost $4.7billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.

A jury in the U.S. state of Missouri initially awarded $550m in compensation and added $4.1bn in punitive damages.

If a test showed the presence of asbestos, Johnson & Johnson sent it to a lab the company knew would produce different results, he told the jurors.

In the trial that went on for six weeks, the women said that they developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc products for decades.

Jurors announced the award for compensatory damages Thursday in a lawsuit that included 22 plaintiffs.

Six of the 22 plaintiffs in the latest trial have died from ovarian cancer. J&J should pull its talc-based products from the market or "mark it with a serious warning", he said.

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"Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process". He said company knowledge of the asbestos dates back more than 40 years. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues.

United Kingdom-based cancer charity Ovacome has said that there have been concerns for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proven by research.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos.

Companies also have been using asbestos-free talc in its products since 1970.

The women who sued, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job-retraining program, come from states including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this spring. "But sympathy aside, the plaintiffs have not come anywhere close to proving their case".

Several similar trials have already taken place, with a Los Angeles appeals court last October dismissing a $417 million verdict against J&J, saying the complainant's arguments were insufficient and vague. This ruling was delivered by the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis.

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