The Missouri Court of Appeals has denied Johnson & Johnson’s attempt to overturn a jury’s decision to award 22 women billions of dollars in compensation for ovarian cancer caused by talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder. The ruling, which upheld the verdict and lowered the original $4.69 billion award to $2.12 billion, will likely bode well for tens of thousands of additional plaintiffs, many of whom are represented by St. Louis-based OnderLaw.
The court’s decision came with stern admonition for Johnson & Johnson: “Plaintiffs proved with convincing clarity that defendants engaged in outrageous conduct because of an evil motive or reckless indifference. There was significant reprehensibility in defendants’ conduct,” the court wrote in the opinion.
Though J&J has announced that it plans to exhaust the appeals process in the Missouri Supreme Court, the ruling no doubt increases pressure on the corporation’s attorneys to engage in settlement talks in the remaining cases.
The Missouri Court of Appeals said in its ruling that plaintiffs proved that J&J hid from consumers the fact that their talc often contained asbestos and manipulated science by funding and publishing articles that downplayed the risks. They ignored decades of advice from their own scientists to discontinue use of talc in favor of cornstarch-based powders—a move that likely would have saved countless women from pain, suffering, and death. Research shows a strong correlation between genital talc use and ovarian cancer.
For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed Johnson & Johnson to conduct its own testing to ensure its talc products did not contain asbestos. Trial evidence showed that the company manipulated the testing process to skew results. In 2019, when the FDA conducted their own testing of Johnson’s Baby Powder, they discovered asbestos contamination. The FDA has stood by its findings despite a massive campaign by J&J to discredit them.
Most recently, J&J announced May 19, 2020 that it was pulling its talc-based powder from store shelves in its North American market. It continues to sell the products in European and other markets, and to engage in a campaign of propaganda to discredit peer-reviewed scientific findings for the sake of profits.
The Missouri Court of Appeals ruling awarded the 22 women a total of $500 million in compensatory damages, or damages to compensate them for their actual losses, and $1.62 billion in punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish the corporation for their wrongdoing.
Johnson & Johnson is now facing a federal criminal probe to investigate what we believe are ongoing lies about the safety of its talc. It is also under investigation by 41 state attorneys general for its baby powder sales, and by a congressional subcommittee investigating the link between talc, asbestos, and cancer risks.