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J&J reeling in wake of massive product liability damage award

It took a jury eight hours to determine that damages of $550 million would fairly compensate 22 women plaintiffs for cancer-linked injuries they say they suffered from long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder.

Conversely, it took only an additional 45 minutes for those jurors to let J&J know that the company’s bad faith would centrally feature at the trial’s conclusion. The $550 million was supplemented by a stunning $4.14 billion in punitive damages assessed the global health care company, making the collective $4.69 billion award one of the largest product liability judgments in American history.

J&J’s post-verdict response in the Missouri state court case was a combination of tough talk and expressed resolve to further the litigation battle. The company called the outcome “the product of a fundamentally unfair process,” and vows to appeal. An official J&J statement alluded to numerous errors committed at trial that warrant case reversal.

Of course, the women and their families see things differently. Six of the named plaintiffs actually died prior to the trial. A legal spokesperson for the group lauded the outcome, stating that it addressed decades of company deceit regarding a link between talc products and the cancer-causing carcinogen asbestos.

The award amount alone is certainly enough to make even an eminently powerful multinational enterprise blanch. For J&J, though, there is an additional and most pronounced concern.

And that is this, as underscored in a recent New York Times article: “The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in [similar] cases.”

We will be certain to track notable developments in the future.

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