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Blow for J&J as court refuses to overturn talc verdict

Reuters and company at loggerheads over veracity of claims

J&J

Johnson & Johnson has had further bad news in its long-running defence against claims its talc products cause cancer.

Last Friday, it was forced to defend itself from claims made by a Reuters investigation that it was aware of asbestos contamination in talc products going back decades – something it categorically denies.

Now, its failed to get a massive damages judgment against it set aside in a preliminary post-trial motion – and while it says it is still hopeful to overturn it in a formal appeal, shares in the company took another tumble.

In the summer, a Missouri trial court judge affirmed the $4.7bn damages claim in a case involving 22 women and their families who alleged the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Six of the women have died since the lawsuit was filed.

Summing up, Judge Rex Burlison said there was evidence of “reprehensible conduct” by J&J executives, after agreeing with the plaintiffs’ position that the company knew that asbestos was present in its products for decades but “knowingly targeted [them] for sale to mothers and babies.”

J&J said the same judge has denied similar motions on prior verdicts in his court that were ultimately overturned on appeal.

talc

The company added that it is “deeply disappointed” in the latest verdict which it claims is the result of “a fundamentally unfair process that allowed plaintiffs to present a group of 22 women, most of whom had no connection to Missouri, in a single case all alleging that they developed ovarian cancer.”

It added: “The result of the verdict, which awarded the exact same amounts to all plaintiffs irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding.”

J&J has had mixed results fighting more than 10,500 lawsuits from ovarian cancer patients claiming injury from its baby powder, but this case was significant as it was the first to focus on asbestos in the product.

The Reuters article last week, which the news agency said came from a probe into documents that J&J made public in connection with the lawsuits, claimed that raw talc and finished powders had on occasion tested positive for small amounts of asbestos “from at least 1971 to the early 2000s” and alleges the company was aware of the issue.

J&J’s statement on the article said it “ignores that thousands of tests by J&J, regulators, leading independent labs, and academic institutions have repeatedly shown that our talc does not contain asbestos.”

It accuses Reuters of encouraging an “absurd conspiracy theory” and writing an article that is “one-sided, false, and inflammatory.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

21st December 2018

From: Sales

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