Johnson & Johnson $224 Million Talc Verdict Dismissed by Appeals Court

A New Jersey court has dismissed a verdict against Johnson & Johnson for allegedly selling tainted talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson $224 Million Talc Verdict Dismissed by Appeals Court
The logo of health care company Johnson & Johnson is seen in front of an office building in Zug, Switzerland, on Dec. 1, 2021. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)
Stephen Katte

A $224 million jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson that was awarded to four people who alleged they developed cancer from using the pharmaceutical company’s talcum-powder products was dismissed by a New Jersey appeals court.

In 2019, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was ordered to pay New Jersey residents Douglas Barden, D'Angela McNeill-George, William Ronning, and David Etheridge $37.2 million in compensatory damages and $750 million in punitive damages.

The total sum was reduced to the lower figure under New Jersey state laws.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J appealed the court’s decision in 2020, arguing the three experts used as the crux of the argument by the plaintiffs during the trial presented flawed or incomplete information.

A three-judge appeals court panel agreed on Oct. 3, and, in their ruling, found the expert testimony from Jacqueline Moline, William Longo, and James Webber wasn’t scientifically sound enough to be admissible.

As a result, the jury verdict was reversed and a new trial was ordered.

According to the appeals judges, the experts hadn’t explained the facts or methods they used to support the opinion that the plaintiffs developed cancer owing to exposure to asbestos in talc products.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York on Oct. 15, 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York on Oct. 15, 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

“In sum, the trial court erred when it admitted Webber’s and Moline’s testimony about cleavage fragments and Longo’s extrapolation testimony,” the ruling said. “These errors, taken singularly or collectively, were harmful and require the reversal of the jury verdict.”

The judges also found that the trial court failed to fulfill its “gatekeeping role” of assessing whether the plaintiffs’ experts had based their testimony on sound science.

Chris Placitella, a New Jersey attorney who helped represent Mr. Barden, Mr. Etheridge, Ms. McNeill-George, and Mr. Ronning told CBS in a statement that his clients are disappointed in the appeals court’s decision.

“Everyone involved knew that no matter what the result, this case would eventually be presented to the New Jersey Supreme Court,” he said.

“We look forward to the opportunity to do so.”

J&J has maintained that its products are safe and the lawsuits have no merit. The company reiterated its stance in an Aug. 11, 2022, statement that announced the discontinuation of the talc products in question.

“We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the company said.

Representatives of Johnson & Johnson didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Thousands of Lawsuits

J&J has faced thousands of lawsuits over allegations its talc products can contain asbestos and cause cancer.

The firm attempted to stave off the litigation with an April 4 proposal of a $8.9 billion settlement, payable over 25 years, to resolve all the current and future talc claims. However, the proposal and the Chapter 11 filing of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary LTL Management were eventually rejected by Judge Michael B. Kaplan of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.

The court found the company’s financial situation didn’t warrant legal protection from its creditors since it wasn’t in any “immediate financial distress.”