ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis trial court judge has upheld a record-setting $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson after a jury moved over the summer to hand out the award to 22 women who alleged they contracted ovarian cancer from using the manufacturer’s Baby Powder and other talc products.
Reuters reports that St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison rendered his verdict on Dec. 19, asserting that the jury’s verdict struck him as justified based on the company’s “reprehensible conduct,” which was brought to light throughout the proceedings.
In addition to insisting that its products do not contain asbestos, top Johnson company officials vowed to fight on in litigation.
“The same judge has denied similar motions on prior verdicts in his court that were ultimately overturned by the appellate courts,” the company said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We are confident this verdict will also be overturned on appeal.”
Over the course of the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs alleged that Johnson & Johnson had been aware that its products posed asbestos-related health risks for nearly the last five decades and consciously made the decision not to inform or warn consumers.
Johnson faces thousands of similar lawsuits, with some of them even alleging that use of its talc products led to cases of mesothelioma.
In the case before Burlison, as previously reported by the St. Louis Record, the jury awarded the 22 victims $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages in July.
Beyond insisting that all of its products have proven to be safe based on decades of studies and regulatory assessments, Johnson & Johnson officials questioned if the trial should have even been held in Missouri to begin with, given a 2017 Supreme Court decision curtailing where companies can be sued in instances where personal injuries are alleged.
In his ruling, Burlison stipulated that the case was rightfully filed in Missouri given Johnson’s long-held connection to the state.