Johnson & Johnson failed to persuade a Missouri trial judge to set aside a verdict awarding a record $4.69 billion (£3.7 billion) to 22 women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the company’s Baby Powder and other talc products.
According to court records, Judge Rex Burlison in St. Louis on Wednesday denied the company’s request, but a detailed opinion of the ruling was not immediately available.
The company in a statement said the motion before Burlison was just a formal step before J&J could file an appeal with the Missouri appeals court.
(Read the Reuters investigation: reut.rs/2rAz2TO)
“The same judge has denied similar motions on prior verdicts in his court that were ultimately overturned by the appellate courts. We are confident this verdict will also be overturned on appeal,” J&J said.
Lawyers for the women did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their illness. They allege that the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks. A jury in July awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.
J&J denies that its talc products cause cancer or that they ever contained asbestos. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.
The majority of the thousands of lawsuits that J&J faces involve claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure. The cases that went to trial in St. Louis effectively combine those claims by for the first time alleging asbestos-contaminated talc caused ovarian cancer.