Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7B in ovarian cancer suit

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The verdict comes as the pharmaceutical giant battles some 9,000 legal cases involving its signature talcum powder. A jury found Johnson & Johnson negligent but did not award damages to the plaintiff.

"Or, put another way, four women out of 200".

Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a jury to pay $4.69 billion to women who claimed asbestos in the company's talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer, marking the sixth-largest product-defect verdict in US history.

She said the case was overwhelmed with "prejudice" because each plaintiff was awarded the same $25 million "irrespective of their individual facts", according to Bloomberg. The company, which has successfully overturned previous cases, denies its talc products contain asbestos that caused ovarian cancer and plans to appeal the case.

During closing arguments, Johnson & Johnson lawyer Peter Bicks said the company for years has exceeded industry standards in testing talcum powder for asbestos and cited several scientific studies and conclusions by USA government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe.

The company "rigged" tests to avoid showing the presence of asbestos, Lanier said.

A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. Bicks asked. "Does that make common sense, when Johnson & Johnson is doing all this testing?"

Medical experts testified during the six-week trial that asbestos (a known carcinogen) is intermingled with mineral talc, which is the primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.

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"Your voice is not just the voice of the community but the voice of the world", Lanier said. It says that there have been worries for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proved by research and more studies are needed.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company believes its products are safe and will pursue "all available appellate remedies". Before Thursday's decision, the largest was a $1 billion award given to a sexual assault victim in Georgia.

The US Food and Drug Administration had commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including J&J, from 2009 to 2010.

Mr Lanier said Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products and should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch. This was the first trial to argue that talc in baby powder contains cancer-causing asbestos.

In the trial that went on for six weeks, the women said that they developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc products for decades. "The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

The plaintiffs are represented by The Lanier Law Firm's Mark Lanier. The trial was "an attempt to use sympathy in pursuit of a big payday from a deep-pockets defendant".

Watch the trial on demand.