After six weeks of hearing evidence and testimony, a St. Louis jury Thursday awarded $550 million in damages and another $4.14 billion in punitive damages to 22 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that claimed asbestos in the company's talcum powder caused the plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer.
The jury later added $4.1 billion (around Rs 28,100 crore) in punitive damages.
Lanier told the jurors Wednesday that this case was the first where jurors saw documents showing that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn't warn consumers, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Most of the women in St Louis trial used baby powder, but others used Shower-to-Shower, another of Johnson & Johnson's talc-based products.
"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", said Mark Lanier, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs.
The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in a product liability case, he said. "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed", the statement read, "and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials, which have been reversed".
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York October 15, 2015.
Target Ovarian Cancer said it was important to note that the increased risk was "very small".
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the decision.
A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos. Berg claimed that she turned down a settlement of United States dollars 1.3 million from the company and instead wanted it to put warning stickers on their products.
The women in the St Louis trial, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job retraining programme, come from states across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and has fought them all in appeal. The verdict comes in the first test of plaintiffs' claims of an asbestos ovarian cancer link in use of J&J's iconic baby powder. "More research is needed to work out what role, if any, talc use plays in ovarian cancer".
It is highly unlikely the plaintiffs will keep an amount anywhere close to judgment award. Several other cases have involved sizeable damages, including a $417 million verdict reached by jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court past year. Asbestos, a well-known cancer-causing agent, is often mined near talc.
The trial is one of many proceedings CVN has recorded in Missouri, California, and SC state courts as part of its extensive talc litigation coverage.