Coverage: Johnson and Johnson ordered to pay millions in lawsuit
A U.S. jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to $55 million to a women who said the company’s talc-powder feminine hygiene products led to her ovarian cancer.
This decision is the latest in a line of complaints against the company with J&J facing a $72 million payout from a similar case in February.
Jessica Dye of Reuters had the day’s news:
Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a U.S. jury on Monday to pay $55 million to a woman who said that using the company’s talc-powder products for feminine hygiene caused her to develop ovarian cancer.
The verdict, which J&J plans to appeal, was the second straight trial loss for the company, which is facing about 1,200 lawsuits accusing it of not adequately warning consumers about its talc-based products’ cancer risks.
Following a three-week trial in Missouri state court, jurors deliberated for about a day before returning a verdict for Gloria Ristesund. She was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said the verdict contradicted 30 years of research supporting the safety of cosmetic talc. The company intends to appeal and will keep defending its products’ safety, she said.
Ristesund said she used J&J’s talc-based powder products – which include the well-known Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder – on her genitals for decades. According to her lawyers, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy and related surgeries. Her cancer is now in remission.
Jere Beasley, whose firm represents Ristesund, said his client was gratified with the verdict. The jury’s decision should “end the litigation” and compel J&J to settle the remaining cases, he said.
J&J shares were down 18 cents in after-hours trading to $112.57.
Margaret Cronin Fisk, Tim Bross and Jef Feeley of Bloomberg explained how this suit is the third of its kind for Johnson & Johnson:
Ristesund’s lawsuit is the third to go to before a jury, preceded by the trial in the suit brought by the family of Jackie Fox, who died at 62. An earlier trial in federal court in South Dakota in 2013 ended with a jury finding that J&J was negligent while deciding not to award damages. The company faces another talc trial in the St. Louis court in September.
Thousands of women or their family members contacted plaintiffs’ lawyers after the Fox verdict, attorney Jere Beasley said in March. His firm, one of several representing the Fox family and Ristesund, is reviewing more than 5,000 potential claims, he said in an interview.
Ristesund’s case was a “defense pick” after the plaintiffs selected the first case to go to trial, Beasley said in an interview Monday. “If they can’t win that one, they can’t win one. They’re going to have to come to the table and start settling cases.”
J&J documents showed the company was aware of health concerns since the mid-1970s, Smith told jurors Friday in closing arguments. A 1992 document suggested targeting women who were high users of talcum powder to boost sales, he said.
Ristesund incurred $174,000 in medical bills, plus pain and suffering, Smith told jurors. Talc was found in her ovarian tissue after the hysterectomy, he said.
Christy Jones, a J&J attorney, told jurors that Ristesund had several risk factors for ovarian cancer, That included a family history of cancer, having endometriosis and the fact she had no children, Jones said. “Nobody knows what causes ovarian cancer,” she said.