Judge Upholds $4.7B Baby Powder Verdict

Johnson & Johnson indicates it will appeal
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2018 4:28 PM CST
Judge Upholds $4.7B Baby Powder Verdict
Johnson's baby powder.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

A Missouri judge has upheld one of the largest ever personal injury lawsuit awards. But, as the New York Times reports, the defendant in the case, Johnson & Johnson, doesn’t anticipate having to shell out $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who claim asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer. “The same judge has denied similar motions on prior verdicts in his court that were ultimately overturned by the appellate courts,” the company says. “We are confident this verdict will also be overturned on appeal.” In July, a jury awarded the plaintiffs in the case $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages. That lawsuit is far from isolated, the Times notes: There are some 12,000 plaintiffs in various talcum powder cases against Johnson & Johnson.

The possibility of contaminated talc has been a concern at the company for decades, Reuters reports, but it has worked to keep those concerns secret. Based on recent reporting, drug inspectors in India have taken samples from a Johnson & Johnson factory in that country for testing, according to Fortune. In addition to linking contaminated talc to ovarian cancer, some have claimed that the product caused their mesothelioma. So far, per the Times, Johnson & Johnson has never paid awards to any plaintiffs. Sometimes, the company wins cases, and it appeals the majority of cases it loses. But the company is not unscathed: Following the Reuters report, per Fox Business, Johnson & Johnson lost more than $40 billion in value. The company’s shares dipped again Wednesday after the $4.69 billion award was upheld. (This suit claims that Hawaii's false missile alert caused a heart attack.)

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