Despite its best efforts, Johnson and Johnson (J&J) have failed to get out of having to pay $4.69 billion to women who suffered ovarian cancer as a result of their use of the company’s talc products, including baby powder, that contained asbestos.
According to reporting from The New York Times and Reuters, documents revealed during trial exposed that J&J knew about the presence of asbestos in its talc products for years but engaged in efforts to conceal such information in order to keep the public from being informed about the dangers associated with these products.
The families and women who used J&J’s baby powder and other talc-based products trusted that the information they were provided was honest and complete. For many, it would have never crossed their minds that something as seemingly innocuous as baby powder could potentially contain something as deadly and dangerous as asbestos. But the evidence revealed during trial and subsequent reporting have shown that J&J both knew about the presence of asbestos and engaged in efforts to keep that information from reaching the public.
J&J appealed the jury’s verdict.
Fortunately, justice protected the rights of these plaintiffs and the lower court’s decision was upheld. Missouri Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison was convinced that the people J&J hurt have a right to their recovery and refused to overturn the lower court’s decision.
The 22 plaintiffs, comprised of women and their families, will receive $4.14 billion in punitive damages along with $550 million in compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the Court believes that the defendant’s actions are egregious enough or so harmful that they deserve special punishment.
J&J’s statements indicate that the company intends to continue appealing this decision, claiming that it believes its talc-based products are and have always been safe, going so far as to launch a website claiming the same.
Judge Rex Burlison seems to disagree, stating that “substantial evidence was adduced at trial of particularly reprehensible conduct” on the part of J&J. That, in fact, J&J “knew of the presence of asbestos in products they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades.”
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