An appeals court in Missouri ruled Tuesday, June 23, that Johnson & Johnson pay $2.1 billion to a group of women claiming the talcum powder manufactured by the company caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The court cut the jury verdict in half in a July 2018 suit. The rationale for the reduction in damages was due to the fact that the initial suit included out-of-state plaintiffs who shouldn’t have been involved in the case.
Citing “significant reprehensibility” in the conduct of Johnson & Johnson, the court cited internal memos that dated back to the 1960s and proved the company was aware that asbestos was found in their talc-based products. The ruling stated that Johnson & Johnson ignored the safety of their consumers because they knew the product contained asbestos and was linked to multiple cases of ovarian cancer.
What Does This Mean?
This ruling from the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals establishes that by having to pay half a billion in actual damages and more than $1.6 billion in punitive damages, Johnson & Johnson was aware that one of the main ingredients of their product caused cancer. In fact, the court said that the plaintiffs’ argument focused on, “clear and convincing evidence [Johnson & Johnson] engaged in conduct that was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference.”
This opens the company up for more legal action to come and establishes a precedent of monetary damages. Johnson & Johnson appeal almost every time they lose a case related to its talc-based products. More than 19,000 lawsuits involving the company’s talcum powder were filed as of March of this year.
What’s Johnson & Johnson’s Next Move?
Representatives from Johnson & Johnson state that they’ll seek another review by the Supreme Court of Missouri. They also continue to claim that their products are not to blame for the cancer, despite multiple studies proving that talcum powder causes cancer.
Before the case started, six plaintiffs died and five more passed away after the initial 2018 verdict. In its recent decision, the court stated, “A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer.”