J&J hit with massive talc punitive damages award, but judge plans reduction to $185M: reports

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Johnson & Johnson faces about 16,800 talc lawsuits, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year. (Pixabay)

In Johnson & Johnson’s latest setback amid a long-running defense of talc powders, a jury in New Jersey ordered the drugmaker to pay $750 million in punitive damages, according to reports. Shortly after, the judge indicated she intended to lower the number to $185 million.

The award comes in the state court case of four plaintiffs with mesothelioma who alleged J&J’s talc powders contain asbestos that caused them to develop cancer. J&J fought the claims at trial, and a separate jury previously ordered the company to pay $37.3 million in actual damages. 

Following new proceedings, including testimony from J&J CEO Alex Gorsky, a jury ordered $750 million in additional punitive damages, Bloomberg reports. The judge said she planned to lower the amount to a state limit of five times the earlier compensation award, or about $186.5 million. 

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A J&J spokeswoman said the verdict is “at odds with the decades of evidence showing the Company acted responsibly, was guided by sound science and used the most sophisticated testing available for its talc.” The company plans to appeal both phases of the trial.  

In all cases that have made it through the appeals process, J&J has prevailed, she added. 

The verdict ends a winning streak for J&J in its talc defense. Before the verdict, the company had prevailed in four consecutive talc trials. The drugmaker faces about 16,800 lawsuits alleging harm from talc, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from October shows.