High-stakes talc trial ends in whopping $4.7B verdict for Johnson & Johnson

Even as Johnson & Johnson has successfully appealed three talc verdicts, the company has now suffered its biggest legal setback yet for the products.

A Missouri jury on Thursday ordered the pharma giant to pay $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages after a trial that spanned more than a month. The trial was the largest test for J&J's talc defense to date and combined the claims of 22 women, six of whom have died. It also was the first trial in which a jury ruled on talc- and asbestos-induced ovarian cancer.

J&J in a statement said it's "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."

As the company notes, it has been successful in appealing three talc verdicts so far worth a combined $544 million. The company said the "multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed."

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During the St. Louis trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs presented evidence that J&J's talc products have contained asbestos for decades, according to a release from the Lanier Law Firm. In a statement, lead trial counsel Mark Lanier said he hopes the "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 verdict follows several others against J&J; judges have nixed three in appeals. In St. Louis, jurors have ordered the company to pay $55 million, $70 million, $72 million and $110 million. Jurors in California previously ordered the company to pay $417 million, but J&J successfully appealed that decision.

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In other appeals, J&J convinced judges to toss verdicts worth $72 million and $55 million; appeals on the other cases are pending. The company has won other ovarian cancer cases in New Jersey and St. Louis.

Aside from ovarian cancer lawsuits, jurors have hit the company with verdicts in mesothelioma cases in recent months as well. In April and May, jurors ordered the company and other defendants to pay verdicts worth $117 million and $25.75 million. Another mesothelioma case in late May ended in a mistrial.