A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday rejected Johnson & Johnson's bid to throw out a jury verdict in favor of women who blamed their ovarian cancer on its baby powder and other talc products but reduced damages by more than half, to US$2.12 billion.
The Missouri Court of Appeals lowered the original US$4.69 billion verdict from July 2018 after dismissing claims by some of the 22 women and their families who had sued.
But it said the plaintiffs had proven that J&J and an affiliate concealed for decades that the talc products contained asbestos, worked tirelessly to ensure that testing protocols would not detect asbestos in all talc samples and published articles downplaying the safety hazards of talc.
Plaintiffs proved with convincing clarity that defendants engaged in outrageous conduct because of an evil motive or reckless indifference, the court said. There was significant reprehensibility in defendants' conduct.
J&J said it will appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.
We continue to believe this was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts, spokeswoman Kim Montagnino said. We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important. We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free, and does not cause cancer.
Tuesday's decision followed J&J's May 19 announcement that it would stop selling its Baby Powder talc in the United States and Canada.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company faces more than 19,000 lawsuits claiming that its talc products cause cancer because of contamination from asbestos, a known carcinogen.
J&J's payout in Tuesday's decision includes US$500 million of compensatory damages and US$1.62 billion of punitive damages, down from a respective US$550 million and US$4.14 billion in the original verdict from a Missouri circuit court.