J&J ordered to pay $110 million in U.S. talc-powder trial

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson on Thursday was ordered by a Missouri jury to pay over $110 million to a Virginia woman who says she developed ovarian cancer after decades of using of its talc-based products for feminine hygiene.

The verdict in state court in St. Louis was the largest so far to arise out of about 2,400 lawsuits accusing J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of talc-based products including its well-known Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Many of those lawsuits are pending in the state court in St. Louis, where the company has faced four prior trials, three of which resulted in verdicts awarding plaintiffs $195 million in total. The last trial ended in a defense verdict.

Thursday’s verdict came in a lawsuit against J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc by Lois Slemp, a resident of Virginia who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer initially diagnosed in 2012 returned and spread to her liver.

She claimed that she developed cancer after four decades of daily use of talc-containing products produced by J&J, specifically J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder.

The jury awarded $5.4 million in compensatory damages and said J&J was 99 percent at fault while Imerys was just 1 percent. It awarded punitive damages of $105 million against J&J and a unit and $50,000 against Imerys.

The verdict was watched by Reuters through Courtroom View Network, which carried a web broadcast, and confirmed by a spokesman for a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

In a statement, J&J said that it sympathized with women impacted by ovarian cancer but planned to appeal.

“We are preparing for additional trials this year and we continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” J&J said.

The verdict came after J&J secured its first trial win in the Missouri litigation, when a jury in March sided with the company in a lawsuit by a Tennessee woman who said she developed cancer after using Baby Powder.

That verdict broke a three-trial winning streak by plaintiffs that began with a verdict in February 2016 in which a jury ordered J&J to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.

In May 2016, another Missouri jury awarded $55 million to a woman who said J&J’s talc-powder products caused her to develop ovarian cancer. J&J was hit with a third verdict in October for $67.5 million.

The case is Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson, 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri, No. 1422-CC09326-01.