Supreme Court rejects Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of talc powder verdict

Photo (c) lisegagne - Getty Images

The company argued that it didn’t get a fair trial

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a multibillion dollar talcum powder verdict. 

The case was brought by 22 women who said they developed ovarian cancer as a result of using the company’s talc products. Johnson & Johnson argued that it didn’t get a fair trial. Without providing further explanation, the justices decided Tuesday to reject the company’s appeal.  

A Missouri jury initially awarded the women nearly $5 billion, but a state appeals court dropped two plaintiffs from the suit and cut the damage award down to around $2 billion. 

All of the women involved in the case (of which nine have died) used Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Shimmer Effects. Both products are made with talcum powder, and the suit claims the powder was contaminated with the cancer-causing substance asbestos. 

Company defends itself

Johnson & Johnson has denied that its talc products contain asbestos and that asbestos-laced talc can cause ovarian cancer. 

The company, which is currently facing thousands of lawsuits over the possible link between cancer and talc, called the verdict in the Missouri trial “at odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, is not contaminated by asbestos and does not cause cancer.” 

However, the Supreme Court wasn’t asked to decide whether the products caused cancer. It was asked to consider the company’s argument that the Missouri courts unfairly combined the cases of the women from different states. The severity of each woman’s cancer varied, and some had a genetic or family predisposition for cancer. 

The justices ruled in favor of the women by rejecting the company’s appeal on Tuesday.

Johnson & Johnson has stopped selling talcum-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, but it remains on the market elsewhere. The American Cancer Society has said "it is not clear if consumer products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk.” 

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