Johnson & Johnson (J&J) faced a historically expensive compensation charge on Thursday, July 12, 2018. A Missouri Jury ordered the American baby product giant to pay a record $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages, to a group of women.
The plaintiffs comprising of 22 women alleged suffering from ovarian cancer by using the J&J Baby Powder for hygiene purpose. It is widely “known yet not proven”, that the offender company’s talcum powder contains asbestos particles responsible for increased cancer risk.
The cumulative compensatory damage of $4.69 billion awarded to J&J represents the largest jury penalty in the USA in this year, cites Bloomberg. Correspondingly, it is also the sixth-largest jury ruling in the American history of a product-defect claim.
Johnson & Johnson declared in a statement that the company is “deeply disappointed” with the Missouri Jury verdict as it followed a fundamentally flawed process.
The company note states, “The result of the verdict, which awarded the exact same amounts to all plaintiffs irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding.”
The New Jersey-based J&J shares fell 1.4 percent to $126.45 in the late trading post the hefty penalized verdict, otherwise grown to $1.52 during the regular trading duration.
The Plaintiff’s Version
Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs’ lawyer on Wednesday reiterated that Johnson & Johnson has been hiding the fact about the asbestos ingredient in their product for over 4 decades. He argued that the pharmaceutical giant seeks to shield the brand image of Baby Powder as its “sacred cow”. For the same, J&J also rigged the lab tests to verify asbestos content in talcum as it knew the outcome would be otherwise, Lanier said in the closing statement.
Following the ovarian cancer case verdict, Lanier cautioned J&J to discontinue selling Baby Powder on an immediate basis or else market the product with a serious warning.
Unhappy Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson rejected all the claims of the complainant group. It defended that the unfair Jury system permitted the 22 women, out of which 17 had no connection to Missouri, present the multiple incidents in a single case.
The pioneer in baby products mentioned, “The result of the verdict, which awarded the exact same amounts to all plaintiffs irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding.”
The company maintained its stand on the fact that its products do not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer. It predicts that the judgment will be reversed as, “every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed,” cited in the official note. Moreover, this trial had by far the highest instances of errors compared to the earlier trials which have been reversed.
J&J is facing charges in approximately 9000 cases related to asbestos content in its Baby Powder causing cancer. However, the company’s website displays multiple reports citing “no overall increase in the risk of ovarian cancer”, regardless of how women use talc.