DETROIT — Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a St Louis jury to pay more than US$110 million (S$154 million) to a Virginia woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talcum products.
Imerys Talc America, which provided the talc to J&J, was ordered by the jury to pay about US$100,000. Imerys Talc is a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA.
There are more than 3,000 lawsuits accusing the world’s largest health-care company of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk.
Ms Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for J&J, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict. Mr Orlando Richmond, an attorney for the company, declined to comment.
J&J lost jury verdicts of US$72 million, US$55 million and US$70 million last year, while winning the first trial in 2017. J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is appealing the trial losses. A New Jersey state court judge last year threw out two talc cases set for trial, finding inadequate scientific support for the claims. That decision is also on appeal.
In St Louis, Ms Lois Slemp, 62, said she used J&J’s baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2012. J&J sold its Shower to Shower brand in 2012.
Ms Slemp, whose cancer has since spread to her liver, also claims J&J talc was contaminated with asbestos, a rare allegation in these cases. A company lawyer told jurors that J&J’s products didn’t cause Ms Slemp’s cancer and don’t contain asbestos.
The lawsuit is among more than 1,000 filed in St Louis by women across the US, taking advantage of a Missouri law that allows suits to be brought there by people with no connection to the state.
The company faces trial in another talc claim in St Louis city court next month, brought by the family of a former competitive figure skater who died of ovarian cancer. The trial after that is set for July in Los Angeles.
J&J didn’t warn women of studies linking talc to ovarian cancer to protect the company’s image, Mr Allen Smith, Ms Slemp’s attorney, told jurors.
“What is the corporate image of Johnson & Johnson?” Mr Smith asked. “It’s a mother and baby.’’
Ms Slemp, a retired nurse’s assistant, is undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend the trial.
J&J doesn’t need to warn women about talc because there is no link, Mr Richmond argued. The Food and Drug Administration was asked in 2014 whether a warning label should be put on baby powder, he said.
“They said ‘No.’ The science doesn’t warrant it,” Mr Richmond said. BLOOMBERG