J&J hopes to overturn $4.69bn compensation bill


Johnson & Johnson lawyers are gearing up to appeal a court ruling, which rewarded billions to 22 women in a case linking ovarian cancer and use of J&J's signature Baby Powder.

The six-man, six-woman jury in US state of Missouri courtroom heard six weeks of testimony and deliberated over eight hours before returning the verdict yesterday.

The jury award includes $550m in compensatory damages and $4.14bn in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson.

The women's legal representation team claimed that Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products have been mixed with cancer-causing asbestos "for decades".

Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the women said: "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.”

Medical experts who also testified in the court proved that microscopic asbestos fibres enter might enter the body when talcum powder is inhaled or applied to the genital area. Asbestos fibres and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of many of the women.

Johnson & Johnson has denied that its products contain asbestos and said it "remains confident" that they do not cause ovarian cancer.

The company said in the statement: "Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process that allowed plaintiffs to present a group of 22 women, most of whom had no connection to Missouri, in a single case all alleging that they developed ovarian cancer".

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including questioned Baby Powder, from 2009 to 2010. It found no asbestos in any of them.

Yesterday’s verdict is a drop in the ocean of claims as J&J is currently facing similar legal battles in around 9,000 other cases filed about the use of Baby Powder.

The pharma giant faced a similar ruling last year in California with a single case compensation bill reaching $417m, however, later overturned by company’s appeal and yet to be decided.

Johnson & Johnson said: "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."

The company lawyers are planning to use “forum shopping”, a term used to describe a representation of multiple, combined cases outside of their state jurisdiction as one of the elements of their appeal against yesterday’s Missouri court ruling.

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Piotr Wnuk