This July, Judge Ana C. Viscomi of the New Jersey Superior Court rejected Johnson & Johnson’s motion to reduce or dismiss a $186 million combined punitive damage award, which had already been reduced from $750 million in February. In denying the appeal, the judge called the company’s behavior “reprehensible.”
NJ Jury Awards $37.3 Million Plus Punitive Damages to Four Plaintiffs with Mesothelioma
A Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit alleged the company knowingly sold baby powder made from talc that contained trace amounts of asbestos, which is a known carcinogen with no safe exposure level. The lawsuit alleges the manufacturer purposefully concealed information from the public and skewed test data, raising detection limits to avoid acknowledging the contamination.
Last year, a New Jersey jury ordered J&J to pay $37.3 million in compensatory damages to four individuals with mesothelioma, in addition to $750 million in punitive damages. In February, Judge Viscomi reduced the award to comply with New Jersey state law that caps punitive damages at no more than five times the compensatory verdict. The new $186 million verdict would be divided amongst the plaintiffs in sums of $29.5 million, $36.25 million, $47.25 million, and $73.5 million.
J&J Maintains Innocence, Despite Unfavorable Baby Powder Asbestos Verdicts
Despite the verdicts, J&J continued to maintain that their product does not contain asbestos. The company issued the following statement following the loss: “We sympathize with all who are suffering from cancer, and we understand patients and their families are seeking answers. Consumers can be assured that more than 40 years of independent scientific evaluations confirm that Johnson’s Baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”
They went on to say the damages judgment was “based on numerous legal errors that subjected the jury to irrelevant information and prevented them from hearing meaningful evidence.” The verdict was “at odds with the decades of evidence showing the company acted responsibly, was guided by sound science, and used the most sophisticated testing available for its talc,” they said. J&J has halted the sale of talc-based baby powder in North America, but will continue to sell in overseas markets “where demand is higher.”
Judge Viscomi Offers Harsh Rebuke of J&J’s Misconduct
In upholding her punitive damages ruling, Judge Viscomi cited “clear and convincing evidence” regarding the company’s “direct lies” to consumers that they had “removed all impurities,” though executives knew otherwise. She spoke of J&J’s failure to report the presence of asbestos to the US Food and Drug Administration, instead choosing to accept testing “that it knew was not sensitive enough to detect asbestos” and editing out “unfavorable test results from reports.”
“J&J’s conduct here was reprehensible,” Judge Viscomi said, adding: “The award, modified by the Punitive Damages Act, is not so clearly disproportionate to the injury and does not shock the conscience of the court.”
Showard Law Firm can help
If you or a loved one has received a malignant mesothelioma or ovarian cancer diagnosis after years of using Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder, Showard Law Firm can help. As of January 2020, over 15,000 cases were pending in MDL 2738 in New Jersey. Whether you want to file a baby powder lawsuit of your own or learn more about the nationwide litigation efforts, our consultations are always free. It costs nothing to pursue a case.