June 29, 2018 / 8:58 PM / 3 months ago

Missouri appeals court tosses $55 mln J&J talc-powder verdict

NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters) - A Missouri appeals court on Friday threw out a $55 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using its talc-based products, including J&J’s Baby Powder, for feminine hygiene.

The 2016 verdict came down in the case of South Dakota resident Gloria Ristesund, who was awarded $5 million in compensatory and $50 million in punitive damages.

Ristesund alleged that her decades-long use of J&J talc-based products caused her cancer and that the company had failed to warn consumers about the risks.

J&J denies the allegations, saying decades of testing have shown its cosmetic talc-based products to be safe.

But the unanimous three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District in their Friday decision did not rule on the merits of the allegations.

The judges instead said the verdict could not stand following a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision which limits where companies can be sued for personal injuries.

The high court in June last year ruled that state courts cannot hear claims against companies that are not based in the state when the alleged injuries did not occur there.

J&J is based in New Jersey and Ristesund exclusively purchased and used the company’s talc products in South Dakota and Minnesota, according to court records.

Ristesund during the appeals process asked the court for permission to present additional evidence tying J&J to Missouri, but the judges on Friday rejected her request saying she had had ample opportunity to present such evidence over the past years.

J&J is battling some 9,000 cases claiming its talc-based products cause ovarian cancer and, in some cases, mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.

The talcum powder litigation in recent months has taken a new focus as lawyers for cancer patients suing the company focus on a theory that J&J’s talc is allegedly contaminated with asbestos fibers.

J&J denies the allegations, saying its talc products do not contain asbestos or cause any form of cancer. (Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by David Gregorio)

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