The fifth Missouri talc trial started April 10 before Judge Rex M. Burlison of the 22nd Circuit Court of St. Louis. Burlison presided over all of the court’s talc trials, including three last year resulting in verdicts in favor of plaintiffs who claimed Johnson and Johnson’s talc-containing products contributed to the development of their ovarian cancer.
The St. Louis Record reports that as this new trial begins defendants Johnson and Johnson and Imerys, the company that supplies talc to J&J, are still busy arguing against last year’s losses. Specifically, both have filed post-trial motions against last October’s $70 million verdict. Among their arguments, the defendants claimed that the punitive damages award was “unconstitutionally excessive.”
Punitive damages are damages exceeding simple compensation of loss suffered by the plaintiff caused by the defendant and instead awarded to punish the defendant.
However, “Burlison, on March 13, rejected all arguments in the motion and added that the jury’s $67.5 million punitive damage award was ‘not grossly excessive nor arbitrary,’” reported the St. Louis Record.
This isn’t the only large punitive damage award against Johnson and Johnson in a talc case. In the first Missouri talc trial, a jury in February 2016 awarded $62 million in punitive damages against Johnson and Johnson only, not finding Imerys liable in this case. Jacqueline Fox had died of ovarian cancer just before the trial began and the jury decided to award punitive damages of $1 million for every year of her life, far exceeding what Fox’s attorneys had requested. The St. Louis Record reports that Johnson and Johnson’s appeal of this verdict is scheduled for May at the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.
In a defense pick last May, jurors reached a verdict in favor of plaintiff Gloria Ristesund that included $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
In their second defense pick last month, Johnson and Johnson succeeded in securing its first win in a talc trial.
The trial that began April 10 is a third defense pick, making for two defense picks in a row. Sixty-one-year-old plaintiff Lois Slemp’s declining health caused her trial to be expedited. After four decades of hygenic talc use Slemp blames Johnson and Johnson’s talc-based products for her ovarian cancer.
Women suing Johnson and Johnson and Imerys claim that the companies, knowing of the alleged link between talc and ovarian cancer, should have warned consumers of this risk.