Judge affirms multibillion-dollar talc verdict against J&J; case set for appeals

Johnson & Johnson has pledged to appeal a massive $4.7 billion talc verdict. (Pixabay)

Johnson & Johnson last month suffered a costly setback in its talc defense when a St. Louis jury ordered the company to pay nearly $4.7 billion to 22 women or their families who alleged the company’s baby powder caused ovarian cancer. On Wednesday, the trial judge affirmed that verdict, clearing the path to appeals court. 

Judge Rex Burlison in St. Louis entered the judgment after J&J didn’t challenge the ruling in post-trial motions. J&J CEO Alex Gorsky said on a recent conference call that his company remains “confident that our products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and we intend to pursue all available appellate remedies.” 

A J&J spokesperson added Thursday that “every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed.” J&J intends to “pursue all available appellate remedies,” she said. 

The July verdict came in the form of a $550 million compensatory damages award plus punitive damages worth $4.14 billion. Mark Lanier, lead trial attorney for the plaintiffs, said at the time 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." 

J&J has maintained that its products do not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer.

The developments come as J&J now faces about 10,600 talcum powder cases, according to a recent securities filing. Meanwhile, a new trial alleging a link to mesothelioma has kicked off in California, according to the Courtroom View Network. 

In previous ovarian cancer talc cases in St. Louis, juries have ordered the company to pay $55 million, $70 million, $72 million and $110 million. J&J pledged to appeal each ruling and has since persuaded judges to overturn the $55 million and $72 million verdicts. The company has won other ovarian cancer cases in New Jersey and St. Louis. 

A California jury previously ordered the company to pay $417 million, but that verdict didn’t survive an appeal. 

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