Johnson & Johnson, maker of the discontinued iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder, recently announced that it would settle 1,000 talc lawsuits for $100 million. And yesterday, the company was a step closer to having to pay $2.1 billion to just 22 women who, in 2018, were awarded $4.7 billion by a jury, which found that the asbestos-tainted talc caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
In June of this year, a district court in Missouri slashed the award by over $2 billion but affirmed the jury’s findings. Yesterday, that state’s high court refused to review the lower court’s decision. According to Law360.com, the consumer products giant will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeals court that upheld the victory for the plaintiffs found the damages acceptable, asserting that Johnson and Johnson had knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated products to consumers—for decades.
The company also complained that the $25 million award per plaintiff proves that the jury were not concerned with the fine details of the case. However, the appeals court ruled that the identical awards are not evidence of unfair treatment against Johnson & Johnson.
The lead plaintiff in the 2018 trial was Gail Ingham, who died from ovarian cancer while Johnson & Johnson’s appeal was pending. Five additional plaintiffs passed away before the trial began; their family members will eventually receive the damage award.
An attorney for the surviving women told Law360.com, “The trial jury sent a loud message alerting the world to the dangers of talc … While we applaud J&J’s decision to cease distributing its talc-based powders in North America, much more needs to be done to provide justice for victims both now, and in the future.”
Elaborating on why the company would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, an attorney for Johnson & Johnson stated, “The company believes Ingham was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts. The verdict is also at odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.”
In October 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found trace levels of asbestos in a bottle of the Johnson’s Baby Powder. Johnson & Johnson disputed the FDA findings. But that same month, J & J voluntarily recalled a batch (over 30,000 bottles) of the product after trace amounts of asbestos were found.
Johnson & Johnson voluntarily discontinued sales in North America of its talc-based baby powder in May of this year. Dozens of organizations have called for a global ban on the company’s talc powder. Meanwhile, the company continues to sell cornstarch-derived baby powder, which does not contain asbestos.
Despite settling the 1,000 cases for $100 million, Johnson & Johnson still faces some 20,000 talc lawsuits.