Justices reject Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of £1.4 billion talc verdict

A bottle of Johnson’s baby powder
A bottle of Johnson’s baby powder (AP)
17:17pm, Tue 01 Jun 2021
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The US Supreme Court is leaving in place a two-billion-US-dollar (£1.4 billion) verdict in favour of women who claim they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson talc products.

The justices did not comment in rejecting Johnson & Johnson’s appeal on Tuesday. The company argued that it was not treated fairly in facing one trial involving 22 people with cancer who came from 12 states and different backgrounds.

A Missouri jury initially awarded the women 4.7 billion dollars (£3.3 billion), but a state appeals court dropped two women from the suit and reduced the award to two billion dollars (£1.4 billion).

The jury found that the company’s talc products contain asbestos and asbestos-laced talc can cause ovarian cancer. The company disputes both points.

This decision sends a clear message to the rich and powerful: you will be held to account when you cause grievous harm under our system of equal justice under law

Johnson & Johnson, which is based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has stopped selling its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the US and Canada, although it remains on the market elsewhere.

But the company faces thousands of lawsuits from women who claim asbestos in the powder caused their cancer.

Talc is a mineral similar in structure to asbestos, which is known to cause cancer, and they are sometimes obtained from the same mines.

The cosmetics industry in 1976 agreed to make sure its talc products do not contain detectable amounts of asbestos.

Mark Lanier, the lead lawyer for the women during the trial, praised the court’s refusal to hear Johnson & Johnson’s appeal.

“This decision sends a clear message to the rich and powerful: you will be held to account when you cause grievous harm under our system of equal justice under law,” Mr Lanier said.

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