Johnson & Johnson ask Supreme Court to review $2B talc product verdict
Johnson & Johnson is asking the Supreme Court to review a $2 billion verdict in favor of women who claim its talc powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer, The Associated Press reports.
The multinational corporation is arguing that it did not get a fair trial in Missouri where it lost a case that resulted in an initial $4.7 billion payout to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer. A state appeals court later cut the amount down to less than half, though it upheld the outcome of the trial.
Judge Rex M. Burlison wrote in his ruling that the evidence displayed “particularly reprehensible conduct on the part of Defendants.”
According to Burlison, J&J “misrepresented the safety of these products for decades,” as it knew its products aimed toward mothers and babies contained asbestos.
J&J has maintained that its products don’t cause cancer, saying the verdict in the trial is “at odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, is not contaminated by asbestos and does not cause cancer,” the AP reports.
The company is not seeking to rehash whether its products caused cancer, but is instead arguing that it should not have been made to defend itself in one trial against claims made by women living in 12 different states, who had different backgrounds and varying histories of using J&J talc products.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and its structure is similar to that of talc. J&J had agreed in 1976 to make sure its products did not contain detectable amounts of asbestos, the AP notes.
An analysis of 250,000 women led by the U.S. government failed to find strong evidence connecting baby powder to ovarian cancer, the AP reports, though the lead author of the study called the results “very ambiguous.”
The largest business groups in the country are backing J&J, the AP reports. The father of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, E. Edward Kavanaugh, is also mentioned in court documents due to his long association with the trade group for cosmetic and personal care products.
The elder Kavanaugh’s group, the Personal Care Products Council, fought against efforts to list talc as a carcinogen, the AP reports. Experts who spoke to the AP said they saw no reason that Justice Kavanaugh should recuse himself, should the Supreme Court decide to hear the case.
However, the AP notes that one justice will most likely recuse himself. Justice Samuel Alito reported that he owns $15,000 to $50,000 in J&J stock last year, with federal law preventing judges from sitting on cases in which they have a financial interest.
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