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Talc Cancer Verdict of $4.6 Billion From St. Louis Jury Sends ‘Very Powerful Message’

A St. Louis jury has hit talc maker Johnson & Johnson with billions of dollars in punitive and personal damages to be paid to plaintiffs who claimed either they or a member of their family had gotten ovarian cancer from asbestos in the company’s talcum powder. The verdict awarded $25 million to each of 22 families, including six plaintiffs who sued on behalf of relatives who had died, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The jury added another $3.15 billion in punitive damages against the company, and $990,000 against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. Jurors told the Dispatch they arrived at the award by multiplying the “roughly $70 million” the company had earned selling the powder in a recent year times the 43 years that J&J claimed they’d taken asbestos out of the powder. Plaintiffs used the company’s own internal documents to prove it both knew the asbestos was still there, and failed to warn consumers about it. The company plans to appeal.

Of course, the company plans to appeal. But no appeal can take away the truths that continue to surface about Johnson & Johnson’s products, which have kept the company in court for years. From having to recall its children’s Tylenol and Motrin in 2010 to being hit with a nearly $2 billion settlement in 2012 with the U.S. Department of Justice for its fraudulent marketing of their antipsychotic drug Risperdal, to its cancer-causing chemicals that were found in its baby shampoo, Johnson & Johnson has a history of marketing products that ultimately end up in court.

Don’t think that Johnson & Johnson stands alone, however, when it comes to hiding company documents showing that its products may not be as safe as they claim. For example, Monsanto — now Bayer — is currently in the middle of lawsuits of its own, with plaintiffs claiming in a mass class-action suit that its herbicide, Roundup, gave them cancer. More than 3,500 individuals have filed lawsuits against Monsanto in this case, claiming the weed killer caused their Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Many of the cases in this multidistrict litigation are being handled in federal court in San Francisco under one judge. Internal documents obtained during discovery have been released by plaintiff attorneys, and have become known as "The Monsanto Papers." In short, these papers show that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency itself colluded with Monsanto to dismiss suffering people’s cancer concerns with Roundup.

Another lawsuit filed by the Organic Consumers Association and the nonprofit organization Beyond Pesticides charging Monsanto with deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Roundup is currently working its way through the courts.

And, of course, Monsanto/Bayer has vowed to fight the charges to the death. But, like Johnson & Johnson, I predict they won’t be able to win against their own internal documents.
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