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Jury orders J&J to pay $4.7 billion in Missouri asbestos cancer case

Reuters 

By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) - A jury on Thursday ordered to pay a record $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the company's talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain and caused them to develop ovarian

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause

The company is battling some 9,000 cases. J&J denies both that its products cause and that they ever contained It says decades of studies show its to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.

Thursday's massive verdict, handed down in the of the City of St. Louis, was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to an of the trial by Courtroom View Network.

J&J in a statement called the trial "fundamentally unfair" and said it would appeal the decision.

J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award. They had risen $1.52 during regular trading.

The jury's decision followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts on both sides.

The women and their families said decades-long use of and other caused their They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.

"is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process," the company said in a statement. The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.

"Every verdict against in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed," J&J added, saying that it would pursue all available appellate remedies.

J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the that limits where lawsuits can be filed.

Of the 22 women in the trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state generally regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs. The practice of combining plaintiffs in such jurisdictions, commonly criticized as "forum shopping" by defendants, will be challenged on appeal.

Mark Lanier, the for the women, in a statement following the verdict called on J&J to pull its from the market "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a "

"If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning," Lanier said.

The majority of the lawsuits that J&J faces involve claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a closely linked to asbestos exposure.

The cases that went to trial in effectively combine those claims by alleging asbestos-contaminated talc caused

Previous talc trials have produced verdicts as large as $417 million. But that 2017 verdict by a jury, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, was overturned on appeal, and challenges to at least another five verdicts are pending.

The commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including of J&J's No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples, the agency said https://bit.ly/2L5oXJP.

But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed that did not allow for the proper detection of asbestos fibers.

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.

Plaintiffs claim the two can become intermingled in the process, making it impossible to remove the carcinogenic substance. J&J denies those allegations, saying rigorous testing and purification processes ensure its talc is clean.

(Reporting by in New York; editing by and Rosalba O'Brien)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, July 13 2018. 06:06 IST
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