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J&J loses bid to overturn baby powder verdict, but damages cut to $2.1 billion

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Illustration/File Photo)

BY JONATHAN STEMPEL

A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday rejected Johnson & Johnson’s bid to throw out a jury verdict in favor of women who blamed their ovarian cancer on its baby powder and other talc products, but reduced its damages award to $2.12 billion from $4.69 billion.

The decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals, in a case brought by 22 women, followed J&J’s announcement on May 19 that it would stop selling its talc Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada.

Johnson & Johnson faces more than 19,000 lawsuits claiming that its talc products caused cancer because of contamination from asbestos.

The company pledged to appeal Tuesday’s decision to the Missouri Supreme Court, the state’s highest court.

“This was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts,” spokeswoman Kim Montagnino said. “We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important. We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free, and does not cause cancer.”

The appeals court awarded $500 million in actual damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages, reducing the original July 2018 verdict after dismissing claims by some of the plaintiffs.

It faulted J&J for having published articles downplaying the safety hazards associated with talc, and said a jury could have reasonably found that its products caused the plaintiffs’ injuries.

“There was significant reprehensibility in defendants’ conduct,” it said.

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