A Missouri circuit court ordered Johnson & Johnson on Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families after they made claims that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products, including its baby powder, led them to develop ovarian cancer, The New York Times reports.
A St. Louis jury awarded the women, who say Johnson & Johnson failed to warn them of the risks associated with their products, $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages, according to the newspaper.
According to NBC News, the company is fighting over 9,000 talc-related cases, and vehemently denies that its products ever contained asbestos or brought upon cancer. It claims that several years worth of studies show talc to be a safe ingredient, and have won previous similar cases.
“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which 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,” the pharmaceutical giant said in a statement.
The verdict in the case comes after a six-week trial, though deliberations for damages took only eight hours, according to the women’s lawyer, Mark Lanier.
The attorney said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in its products, and argued that there should either be warning labels or a change in ingredients from talc to cornstarch.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict and believes the conviction will be removed.
“Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do no cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies,” the corporation said. “Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trails which have been reversed.”
The jury heard testimony from cancer survivors in the case and their families. Six of the plaintiffs have already succumbed to the devastating disease.
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