A Missouri appeals court refused to toss out a $4.7 billion jury verdict against
In a unanimous 83-page opinion issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel said
While the judges upheld $500 million in actual damages awarded to the women, they cut the punitive damages to about $1.6 billion from about $4 billion. That brought the total down to $2.1 billion. J&J, which denies its talc powder is tainted with asbestos, plans to appeal the court’s decision.
“We continue to believe this was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts, and will pursue further review of this case by the Supreme Court of Missouri,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.
The women blamed their ovarian cancers on use of asbestos-laced talc powder. Jurors awarded each woman $25 million in compensatory damages. The panel then added more than $4 billion in punitive damages. The award was the sixth largest in U.S. legal history.
J&J -- which
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company has lost other cases at trial, with juries across the U.S. ordering it to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Judges slashed some of those awards while others have been thrown out or are on appeal. J&J also has
In upholding some of the punitive award, the appeals court judges said they found “significant reprehensibility” in J&J’s handling of the issue of asbestos in its baby powder.
The bad conduct cited by the court included J&J avoiding “adopting more accurate measures for detecting asbestos,” discussing the asbestos risk of the powder in internal memos and refusing until recently to replace talc in its baby powder with cornstarch, which doesn’t pose a cancer risk.
The plaintiffs contend J&J knew from the
J&J also argued the vast majority of the 22 women whose claims were combined in the case weren’t Missouri residents and shouldn’t have been able to sue in the state.
The appeals court knocked out the awards for two women who were from out of state. But the judges rejected the company’s argument for 15 other plaintiffs, saying they had a legitimate basis for suing in Missouri because they used a talc-based powder called Shimmer -- produced for J&J by a company based in Union, Missouri. Union is located about 50 miles east of St. Louis.
Several other talc verdicts won by out-of-state plaintiffs in Missouri have been
Tuesday’s Missouri ruling may bring more talc cases back to St. Louis courts -- known to be more plaintiff-friendly than other venues, said
“As long as they can show they used that specific type of powder, then out-of-staters are welcome to bring their suits in St. Louis,” Tobias said. “If the
The case is: Ingham v. J&J, ED-107476, Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District (St. Louis).
(Updates with comment from plaintiffs’ lawyer.)
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