A jury has awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who alleged that decades of daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-laden talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer. After six weeks of testimony, the twelve-person jury deliberated eight hours before returning the verdict. The jury award includes $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company.
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. 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 Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs. “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.”