Johnson & Johnson was ordered Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
The jury in Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and an additional $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.
Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Johnson’s Baby Powder, said it was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict and planned to appeal.
After a six-week trial, the jury deliberated over the compensatory damages for eight hours but decided on the punitive damages in roughly 45 minutes, according to Barry Pound, a spokesman for the women’s legal team.
Six of the women have died; almost all of the rest were packed into the courtroom in St. Louis on Thursday, Mr. Pound said.
“It’s a very emotional scene; these women have been through a lot,” he said. “They’re pleased to see what will hopefully be some justice done on their behalf.”
Mr. Pound said he was not certain whether the punitive damages represented a record in a product liability case, but said he “can’t imagine there’s been one any larger.”
Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women, said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products. The company should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch, he said.
Johnson & Johnson called the verdict “the product of a fundamentally unfair process” that combined 22 women with few connections to Missouri into a single group of plaintiffs.
The company “remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies,” it said in a statement.