Johnson & Johnson lost its motion on Wednesday to reverse a jury verdict that awarded $4.69 billion to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the company’s baby powder and other talc products.
The $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages, together one of the largest personal injury awards on record, was upheld by Judge Rex Burlison in a circuit court in Missouri. The plaintiffs — 22 women and their families — were the first to go to court against Johnson & Johnson claiming that their ovarian cancer was linked to asbestos contamination in the company’s talc.
Documents used in the case and reported last week by The New York Times and Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson has known for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc, but fought to keep negative information behind closed doors. The company’s stock fell 10 percent on Friday and has struggled to recover since.
[Read more about how Baby Powder’s possible asbestos link worried Johnson & Johnson for years]
Alex Gorsky, the chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, told CNBC on Monday that, based on “thousands of studies,” the company “unequivocally” believes that its talc does not contain asbestos. The same day, the company announced a $5 billion stock buyback plan.