Supreme Court rejects J&J’s appeal of $2B cancer verdict

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The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear Johnson & Johnson’s bid to overturn a $2.1 billion verdict against it in favor of women who said the company’s talc products contain asbestos and can cause ovarian cancer.

Without comment, the justices turned away J&J’s appeal, leaving in place a Missouri state court ruling that favored women who blamed their ovarian cancer on the company’s talc-based products like baby powder. 

The lawsuit is one of many filed on behalf of thousands of women who claim J&J’s talc-based products like baby powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. Other suits have claimed that the products caused mesothelioma. 

“This was a victory not just for the amazing women and their families who we were privileged to represent, but a victory for justice,” Mark Lanier, the women’s lawyer, told The Post. “This result is exactly what separates America from the rest of the world. This decision sends a clear message to the rich and powerful: You will be held to account when you cause grievous harm under our system of equal justice under law.”

Deane Berg
Deane Berg survived the ovarian cancer she allegedly received from a feminine hygiene product produced by Johnson & Johnson containing talc.
http://www.brianlehmann.com

After a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court in 2018, a jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women who used J&J talc products and developed ovarian cancer.

Circuit Judge Rex Burlison later wrote that evidence presented at the trial showed “particularly reprehensible conduct” on the part of the defendants.

Burlison wrote that “defendants knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades.”

Mark Lanier
Mark Lanier called the decision to reject J&J’s appeal “a victory for justice.”
AFP via Getty Images

J&J appealed the jury verdict, and last year a Missouri appeals court rejected the company’s request to throw out the ruling but did reduce the verdict to about $2.1 billion because some of the women were from out of state.

The company argued it should not have been forced to defend itself in one trial against claims by women from various states, backgrounds and histories of using J&J talc-based products.

“The decision by the Court to not review the Ingham case leaves unresolved significant legal questions that state and federal courts will continue to face on issues related to due process rights and personal jurisdiction,” a J&J spokesperson said. “The Supreme Court has many times said that its decision to deny hearing a case expresses no view on the merits whatsoever, and we continue to believe that our view of the law and the facts will ultimately prevail.”

Johnson and Johnson's baby powder
The company has stopped selling its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada.
AFP via Getty Images

“The matters that were before the court are related to legal procedure, and not safety,” the spokesperson added.

The company has denied that its products can be linked to cancer, though it announced last year it would stop selling its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada. 

It said at the time that the decision to discontinue the product was due to falling demand “fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”

Last year, a US-led analysis of 250,000 women found no strong evidence linking baby powder with ovarian cancer, though the study’s lead author called the results “very ambiguous.”

An editorial published in January 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association called the findings “overall reassuring.” The study wasn’t definitive but conclusive research probably isn’t feasible due to a drop in women using the products, the editorial said.

With Post wires

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