A Missouri appeals court recently upheld an important talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by almost two dozen plaintiffs who claim their or their loved one’s disease was directly caused by years of using carcinogenic cosmetics products. In its decisions, the Missouri Court of Appeals disagreed with defendant Johnson & Johnson’s defense that its products were safe for use by consumers, and that its iconic Baby Powder has been asbestos-free for decades.
“This trial showed clear and convincing evidence that defendants engaged in conduct that was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference,” the Missouri Court of Appeals wrote. “Motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers, despite the knowledge that talc in their products caused ovarian cancer.”
Johnson & Johnson had brought the appeal to contest a 2018 trial court verdict in which the jury handed down a then-record breaking $4.64 billion verdict on behalf of the 22 plaintiffs who claimed the company knowingly marketed a dangerous product. Johnson & Johnson, in its appeal, had asserted that the plaintiffs failed to present substantial enough evidence to show that the company acted with the level of negligence necessary to justify such a monumental verdict.
The overwhelming amount of the 2018 verdict award, $4.14 billion, consisted of punitive damages which the jury handed down for what they deemed to be especially egregious conduct on the part of Johnson & Johnson. The remaining $550 million was for compensatory damages for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and monetary damages. Sadly, six of the plaintiffs passed away before the original trial, and five more have passed on since.
The Missouri Court of Appeals further saw fit to uphold over $2 billion in combined punitive and compensatory damages the trial jury awarded. The court’s decision included keeping $500 million in compensatory and $1.2 billion in punitive damages. “A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer,” the court said.
Johnson & Johnson still faces an estimated 17,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country by plaintiffs who claim that they developed mesothelioma and other serious health conditions from using the company’s talc-based products. While talc itself does not contain asbestos, the two are both naturally occurring minerals which can be found side by side one other. If companies mining and processing talc do not take precautions, their products can contain the deadly asbestos fibers known to cause mesothelioma, which is a rare and deadly form of lung cancer.
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