The Missouri Supreme Court declined to overturn a June 23 state appeals court decision that itself had allowed a July 2018 multi-billion dollar verdict to stand against Johnson & Johnson. The company was found liable for 22 women’s development of ovarian cancer. The diagnoses were argued to be the result of the presence of asbestos fibers in talc powder; an allegation long-since denied by the world’s largest healthcare goods manufacturer. They are, however, strongly supported by a wide variety of evidence that has come to light since allegations of the presence of the carcinogenic fiber in J&J talc emerged.
The original verdict had been issued at nearly $4.7 billion but was reduced to $2.2 billion after some of the claims in the initial suit were dismissed. Those claims are nearly identical to the thousands of claims that have been filed in the Johnson & Johnson talc asbestos matter. Victims allege that asbestos present in Johnson & Johnson talc products has not only caused ovarian cancer but is responsible for a number of mesothelioma diagnoses as well. The victims also claim that Johnson & Johnson was completely aware of the presence of asbestos in its talc and it actively worked to conceal that presence from regulators, as well as the general public.
The claims are supported by significant evidence, not the least of which is an exhaustive investigative report by Reuters. Internal J&J documents appear to show that asbestos contamination had been a concern for the company for decades. Publication of the Reuters report led to a $40 billion loss in market value for J&J while company spokespeople scrambled to attack the report as a “calculated” lie.
Such denials might have held more water had the Justice Department not launched its own investigation into the company’s vehement and, at times, almost confrontational denials of the charges levied against it. Johnson & Johnson’s own paid experts have also found asbestos in its talc.
Open facts of the matter aside, Johnson & Johnson has said that it will take its appeal of the $2.2 billion lawsuit all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. When asked his opinion of J&J’s plans on behalf of the victims he represents, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that “Johnson & Johnson should accept the findings of the jury and the appellate court and move forward with proper compensation to the victims.”