Missouri Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Overturn $2 Billion Talcum Powder Cancer Verdict

The Missouri Supreme Court recently rejected a bid by the world’s largest pharmaceutical and cosmetics producer to overturn a monumental award in an asbestos cancer lawsuit handed down by jurors back in July 2018. The Court refused to hear an appeal stemming from a June decision from the state’s appeals court that upheld liability on the part of defendant Johnson & Johnson along with a substantial portion of the multibillion dollar verdict handed down by the jury in the trial court.

In 2018, a Missouri state court jury handed down $4.69 billion to 22 plaintiffs in a lawsuit that alleged Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder caused their cancer diagnosis, many of which were terminal. At trial, the jury was presented with evidence which showed that Johnson & Johnson knew as far back as the 1970s that the talcum powder used for its Baby Powder product was contaminated with asbestos fibers but chose not to disclose any warnings on the labels of its products for consumers.

The $4.69 billion verdict was eventually reduced by the Missouri state appeals court down to $2.12 billion but still upheld the jury’s verdict, saying that it was reasonable to infer from the evidence that Johnson & Johnson “disregarded the safety of consumers” for the sake of profit, despite knowing its talc products caused ovarian cancer. With the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case, Johnson & Johnson’s last option to throw out the award lies with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which the company vowed it would do after news broke of the decision.

Johnson & Johnson faces over 20,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country brought by victims and surviving family members who claim the company’s talc-based products caused serious forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. Many of those lawsuits claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was contaminated with asbestos fibers and that consumers had no idea of the risks because the company withheld such information from the public.

Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that can be found in deposits side by side one another. If companies that source and process talc do not take precautions to ensure their products are not contaminated with asbestos, innocent consumers could be put at risk. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson’s long time talc supplier Imerys Talc USA filed for bankruptcy under the weight of thousands of talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits it was enjoined with the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant, subsequently making a deal to sell of all of its North American assets to finance settlements with victims in federal bankruptcy court.

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