By Barry Eitel
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in punitive damages by a jury Thursday in a case linking talc powder in the company’s products to several cases of cancer.
Twenty-two women brought a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson charging that its talc-based products caused ovarian cancer.
The fine was imposed in several phases. Earlier in the day, the company was ordered to pay $550 million as actual damages to the women. Later in the afternoon, the jury found it should also pay another $4.14 billion in punitive damages.
The attorney for the women said asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s famed talc baby powder caused ovarian cancer. Furthermore, the attorney argued that the company knew about the asbestos but kept this information private.
The fine was the largest yet for the company related to the baby powder, although it has paid out millions due to several lawsuits across the country starting in early 2016.
Talc is the softest mineral known to science, but it can be naturally contaminated by asbestos where it is mined.
“For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products,” Mark Lanier, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
“We hope this 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 company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”
The verdict was handed down after a trial that lasted six weeks.