Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talcum powder lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.69bn (£3.6bn) to 22 women who alleged the pharmaceutical company's talc products contain asbestos that caused cancer.

The verdict of a court in the US state of Missouri follows an initial ruling, awarding 22 women compensation before adding a further $4.1 billion in punitive damages, the New York Times reported.

Lanier told the jurors Wednesday that this case was the first where jurors saw documents showing that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn't warn consumers, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The company said its talc does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer, and vowed it would "pursue all available appellate remedies".

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and defense lawyers probably would file a motion to reduce the award.

A previous ruling in 2017 by a California jury awarded $417m (£323.4m) to a woman who said she developed ovarian cancer after using the firm's products including baby powder.

After a brief punitive phase Thursday afternoon, jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before handing down their $4.14 billion punitive award.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier (left), said that Johnson & Johnson knew asbestos was in their products.

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J&J said it was 'deeply disappointed in the verdict'.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York October 15, 2015.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", Lanier said in a press release issued immediately following the verdict.

A state trial court jury on Thursday handed up a $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson.

The talc wasn't harmless, plaintiff Toni Roberts, 61, said in an interview after the verdict. The prosecution also added that Johnson & Johnson used flawed testing methods. CNBC reports that J&J is embroiled in thousands of court cases over its talc powder. The women claim that either the talc caused ovarian cancer or that the product's talc led to mesothelioma.

The company has been fighting claims that talc powder is unsafe for years.

The women in the St Louis trial, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job retraining programme, come from states across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. A separate plaintiffs' award, for $417 million by a Los Angeles jury in August, was reversed by the trial judge who decided evidence didn't support the verdict. It found no asbestos in any of them.

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