Johnson and Johnson has been hit with its biggest talc verdict yet. Yesterday, after 10 hours of deliberations, a St. Louis jury awarded more than $110 million to plaintiff Lois Slemp, who alleged her four decades of daily use of the company’s talc-containing products were responsible for the development of her ovarian tumors.
Law360 reports that the jury found in favor of plaintiff Lois Slemp on all of her claims, which included conspiracy, breach of implied warranty and negligence. The defendants, Johnson and Johnson, its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. unit and its talc supplier, co-defendant Imerys Talc America Inc., were all hit with punitive damages — $66 million for J&J, $39 million for J&J Consumer and $50,000 for Imerys.
During the 17-day trial in Judge Rex M. Burlison’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, the jurors heard Ms. Slemp’s testimony about her use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, which had to be given through audio recording of her deposition because her cancer, originally diagnosed in 2012, has returned and spread to her liver, and she was too sick to attend court. They heard from expert witnesses who testified that more than 20 well-executed studies show a link between ovarian cancer and genital applications of talcum powder.
The jurors also saw internal documents from Johnson and Johnson and Imerys that showed that for decades the companies had knowledge of the risk talc posed to women. Regardless, Johnson & Johnson continued to market talc products, refused to warn consumers of the health risk, and made efforts to suppress and dismiss the cancer link.
According to Law360, during closing arguments one of Slemp’s attorneys, Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm, urged jurors to punish Johnson and Johnson for its “reprehensible” conduct. “They’re not going to warn unless you all do something about it, and the only way you can do that through this court is through monetary damages,” said Smith to the jury this week.
The jury agreed with him that the defendants’ conduct warranted punitive damages and they awarded the largest yet in a talc trial. The three juries last year that found Johnson and Johnson guilty came back with verdicts of $72 million, $55 million and $70 million. In the first trial, the jury said that they arrived at the number for punitive damages by awarding $1 million for every year of the deceased plaintiff Jacqueline Fox’s life.
A juror in the Slemp case, Nancy Kinney, told Bloomberg that after learning the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talc as a possible carcinogen in 2006, the jury used a formula starting with the number of years since that designation to determine the $105 million in punitive damages they would award.
Bloomberg reported on some of the responses from the jurors:
“I felt that J&J was withholding information about its products that was vital to women –vital to women like me,” said juror Nancy Kinney, who described herself as over 50 years old.
Another juror, Lindsay Polley, said that Johnson and Johnson’s own documents acknowledge that science is increasingly revealing talc to be a risk factor for ovarian cancer. “The J&J documents acknowledge that,” she said. “If we could, we would make them put on a warning label.”
Juror Jeremy King, 32, called the J&J documents “mindblowing.”
“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” said Ted Meadows, co-lead counsel for Ms. Slemp and a principal at the Beasley Allen law firm in Montgomery, Alabama.
“They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny. I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”