Almost two dozen women who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer were awarded $550 million in damages by a St Louis jury in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder. "With all of this independent testing, there's some massive conspiracy going on at Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to asbestos?"
United Kingdom-based cancer charity Ovacome has said that there have been concerns for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proven by research.
J&J is battling another 9,000 cases.
Companies also have been using asbestos-free talc in its products since 1970.
J&J in a statement called the trial "fundamentally unfair" and said it would appeal the decision.
German shares of the company fell as much as 3.59 euros to 105.48 euros ($122.65) after closing at $127.76 Thursday in NY. They had risen $1.52 during regular trading.
The jury's decision came after more than five weeks of testimony by almost a dozen experts on both sides, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.
Mark Lanier, the Houston-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented jurors with internal company documents revealing Johnson & Johnson knew of the asbestos in its products and failed to warn consumers.
"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", said Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs. This ruling was delivered by the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. The practice of combining plaintiffs in such jurisdictions, commonly criticized as "forum shopping" by defendants, will be challenged on appeal. "The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease". On Thursday, Lanier highlighted results he said showed asbestos both in talc mines and the baby powder itself.
Six of the 22 plaintiffs in the trial have died from ovarian cancer. A separate plaintiffs' award, for US$417 million by a Los Angeles jury in August, was reversed by the trial judge who decided evidence didn't support the verdict. Previous talc-cancer trials have focused on claims that the talc itself, rather than asbestos, causes ovarian cancer, or that asbestos in talc causes mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.
The company "rigged" the tests he said, adding that if one test showed asbestos was present, the samples would be sent to another lab that J&J knew would find different results.
Talc, the world's softest rock, is a mineral closely linked to asbestos and the two substances can appear in close proximity in the earth.
J&J denied the argument saying that it didn't make sense for the company to do extensive testing and still allow the product to be harmful.