By Margaret Cronin Fisk and Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg News
Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay $417 million to a 62-year-old woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talc, in the first California trial over the product.
The jury found the parent company and its consumer-products unit liable Monday for failing to warn a woman over the alleged risk of the baby powder. The verdict includes $347 million in punitive damages. J&J, which faces 5,500 claims in U.S. courts, has lost four previous jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million.
The trial in Los Angeles was the first before a state jury outside Missouri, where the company lost four out of five trials over the past 2 years and got hit with verdicts as high as $110 million. J&J is appealing the verdicts and in June succeeded in halting a trial in St. Louis after the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for out-of-state plaintiffs to join lawsuits in state courts that are deemed favorable to their claims.
The company will appeal, said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich. “We are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,’’ she said. “We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
J&J, the world’s largest health-care company, is accused of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk.
Mark Robinson, a lawyer for plaintiff Eva Echeverria, said outside the courtroom that J&J should start warning women immediately about the risks of its talcum powder.
“J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles,” Robinson said. “There’s a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”
Echeverria started using J&J’s talc powder products when she was 11. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J has said the plaintiffs’ allegations aren’t supported by scientific evidence, pointing to a New Jersey state court decision last year tossing out two cases set for trial. That judge found evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer was inadequate.
The $417 million verdict Monday is the third-largest jury award in the U.S. so far in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The largest, for $500 million, was awarded to ZeniMax Media Inc. over its claim that the virtual reality headset maker acquired by Facebook Inc. used stolen code.
The case is Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson, BC628228, Los Angeles County Superior Court.
— With assistance by Jef Feeley
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