Johnson & Johnson has been slammed with a $110.5 million judgment, awarded to an ovarian cancer patient in Missouri state court.
By Laurence Banville
A Missouri state jury has awarded another ovarian cancer patient more than $110 million in the latest Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuit to see trial. The judgment, handed down on May 4, 2017 after ten hours of deliberation, comes close on the heels of three similar plaintiff victories.
J&J, Imerys On Hook For Plaintiff's Ovarian CancerLois Slemp, a 62-year-old Virginia resident, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 - after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powders for over 40 years. At trial, her attorneys marshaled nearly four decades of scientific research that suggests talc, a naturally-occurring mineral, causes the disease.
The St. Louis state court jury agreed, leading one of Slemp's lawyers to opine, "once again we've shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America." The $110.5 million award includes around $5.4 million in compensatory damages, CBS News reports. The jury held Johnson & Johnson 99% liable for Slemp's injuries, assigning only 1% of the blame to Imerys Talc, Johnson & Johnson's primary talc supplier.
Imerys is on the hook for $50,000 out of the over $105 million in punitive damages awarded to Slemp. The mining and distribution interest had been absolved of liability in three out of the four previous court cases. Like Johnson & Johnson, Imerys remains a staunch defender of talc's cosmetic applications. The company is "confident in the consensus of government agencies and professional safety organizations that have reviewed the safety of talc."
"I Trusted Johnson & Johnson. Big Mistake."Slemp was too sick to attend the trial, according to the LA Times. Her cancer has now spread from her ovaries to her liver. The jury, though, was played a tape of Slemp's deposition testimony, in which she said, "I trusted Johnson & Johnson. Big mistake."
Consumer trust is a major driver of Johnson & Johnson's market dominance. At trial, jurors heard evidence that the company had orchestrated a complex consumer relations campaign to discredit scientists looking into talc's potential risks and influence government regulators. The allegations stood in stark contrast to Johnson & Johnson's public face.
Talc, the softest known mineral, has been used in cosmetic goods for over a century, becoming ubiquitous as a feminine hygiene product. Thousands, if not millions, of women have been applying the powder to their genitals for a matter of decades.
J&J Faces Thousands Thousands Of Talc LawsuitsNews organizations are unanimous: Johnson & Johnson is now facing a full-blown talcum powder crisis. While the company recently won its first defense verdict in the litigation, Slemp's $110 million award dwarfs previous judgments, which saw Missouri state court juries grant ovarian cancer patients $55 million, $70 million and $72 million. All three decisions are under appeal.
Johnson & Johnson has already announced that it plans to appeal the verdict in Slemp's case, too, but the company certainly has a long road ahead of itself. Around 2,400 similar lawsuits are still pending in state and federal courts.
In a statement published after the trial, Johnson & Johnson continued to stand behind the safety of its product. "We are preparing for additional trials this year," the release read, "and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."