Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a New Jersey jury to pay an additional US$750 million in punitive damages to a group of former Baby Powder users who had already been awarded US$37.2 million as compensation for cancers they blamed on asbestos in the talc-based product.
After the verdict Thursday in New Brunswick, the judge indicated she may reduce the punitive award to US$186.5 million, as per state law, an amount equaling five times the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiffs last year.Jurors in J&J’s hometown concluded after about two hours of deliberation that the company’s conduct in manufacturing and marketing the product warranted punishment. A separate jury in September found the company liable for the cancers claims and made the initial award for actual damages.
The September verdict was one of five talc cases J&J lost last year, though it prevailed in eight others. J&J, which denies its 135-year-old baby powder line is contaminated with asbestos, still faces more than 16,000 suits from women who mostly say they used the talc-based product for genital hygiene and later developed cancer. Nearly a third of those suits were filed in the last year.
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