Johnson & Johnson cancer appeal fails

A US court has refused to consider Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a $US2.12 billion ($A2.97 billion) damages award to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in its baby powder and other talc products.

The Missouri Supreme Court has let stand a June 23 appeals court decision, which upheld a jury’s July 2018 finding of liability but reduced J&J’s payout from $US4.69 billion after dismissing claims by some of 22 plaintiffs.

Johnson & Johnson says it plans to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

It said on Tuesday the verdict was the product of a “fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts” and “at odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer”.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company also said it will set aside a $US2.1 billion reserve for the verdict, to be reflected in its year-end financial results.

Kevin Parker, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “Johnson & Johnson should accept the findings of the jury and the appellate court and move forward with proper compensation to the victims.”

Johnson & Johnson said in May it would stop selling its Baby Powder talc in the United States and Canada.

The company said last month it faces more than 21,800 lawsuits claiming its talc products cause cancer because of contamination from asbestos, a known carcinogen.

In its June decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals said it was reasonable to infer from the evidence Johnson & Johnson “disregarded the safety of consumers” in its drive for profit, despite knowing its talc products caused ovarian cancer. It also found “significant reprehensibility” in the company’s conduct.

Internal company records, trial testimony and other evidence show from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

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