Supreme Courtroom rejects Johnson & Johnson’s attraction of $2 billion child powder penalty
In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson’s Baby Powder from Johnson and Johnson sits on a table on July 13, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by Johnson & Johnson aimed at undoing a $ 2.1 billion charge on allegations that asbestos in its talcum powder products, including baby powder, caused ovarian cancer in women.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling with no dissenting opinion found that it would not hear the case. Judges Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh have been ordered to withdraw from examining the case.
Johnson & Johnson asked the Supreme Court to review the sentence after the amount was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court last year. A state appeals court previously reduced Johnson & Johnson’s fine by more than $ 4 billion.
The dispute was fraught with fierce legal firepower on both sides, with former acting attorney general Neal Katyal arguing on behalf of the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company and Ken Starr, the former Whitewater prosecutor, who represented women with ovarian cancer who did that Companies sued.
Johnson & Johnson said it ceased sales of its talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada in May 2020, citing decreased demand “fueled by misinformation about the product’s safety and a constant flurry of litigation advertisements becomes”.
The company said it has faced more than 21,800 lawsuits over its talc products.
Starr wrote in his letter asking the judges not to review the case that Johnson & Johnson “knew for decades that their talcum powder contained asbestos, a potent carcinogen with no known safe exposure level.”
“They could have protected customers by switching from talc to corn starch, as suggested by their own scientists back in 1973. But talk was cheaper and petitioners were unwilling to sacrifice profits for a safer product, ”he wrote.
In contrast, Katyal argued that “Federal regulators and respected health organizations have declined calls for warnings about talc, and extensive epidemiological studies tracking tens of thousands of talc users have found no meaningful association between cosmetic talc use and ovarian cancer.”
Katyal said the lawyers for those who sued Johnson & Johnson “searched the country for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer as well as among the millions who used the petitioners’ talc products”.
“You have put dozens of plaintiffs on the stand to discuss their experiences with cancer and the jury is awarding billions of dollars in punitive damages, ostensibly to punish the petitioners,” he wrote. “Lawyers can then follow that script and file the same claims with new plaintiffs and keep asking for new oversized prizes.”
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that the Supreme Court’s decision leaves important legal issues unresolved.
“The matters that have been brought to trial relate to legal process, not security,” the company said. “Decades of independent scientific reviews confirm that Johnson’s baby powder is safe, contains no asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”
Starr did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Johnson & Johnson shares lost more than 1% on Tuesday morning.