The Los Angeles Court has ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay $417m (approx. ₹2600 Crores) to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc-based products for feminine hygiene.
The verdict in favour of California resident Eva Echeverria was the largest yet in lawsuits alleging J&J failed to warn consumers adequately about the cancer risks of its talc-based products.
“We are grateful for the jury’s verdict on this matter and that Eva Echeverria was able to have her day in court,” said Mark Robinson, her attorney, in a statement.
The verdict by the Los Angeles superior court included $70m in compensatory damages and $347m in punitive damages. J&J faces 4,800 similar claims nationally and has been told to pay more than $300m after verdicts by juries in Missouri.
“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder,” J&J said.
Echeverria’s lawsuit was the first out of hundreds of California talc cases to go to trial. The 63-year-old claimed she developed terminal ovarian cancer after decades of using J&J’s products. Her lawyers argued J&J encouraged women to use its products despite knowing of studies linking ovarian cancer to genital talc use.
J&J’s lawyers countered that studies and federal agencies have not found that talc products are carcinogenic.
The trial follows five in the Missouri state court, where many more are pending. J&J lost four of those trials and, along with a talc supplier, has been hit with $307m in payouts as a result of the verdicts. Before Monday the largest verdict ordered it to pay $110m.
The Missouri cases, which have largely been brought by out-of-state plaintiffs, have faced jurisdictional questions after the US supreme court issued a ruling in June that limited where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.
In a decision in a case involving a pharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the supreme court said state courts cannot hear claims against companies when the injuries in question did not occur in the state and the company is not based there.
At the urging of J&J, which is based in New Jersey, a judge in St Louis, Missouri, then declared a mistrial in the talc case already under way. However, the judge left the door open for the plaintiffs to argue they still have jurisdiction because J&J used a Missouri-based bottler to package its products.
Follow Myadvo for daily legal news on trending legal updates!