US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is to appeal after a New York state judge ordered the company to pay $120 million in damages to a Brooklyn woman and her husband, after she blamed her cancer on asbestos exposure from using the company’s baby powder.
The decision to appeal comes despite Justice Gerald Lebovits of the state supreme court in Manhattan reducing the pay-out from the original $325 million a jury awarded Donna Olson, 67, and Robert Olson, 65, in May 2019 following a 14-week trial.
While upholding the jury’s liability finding, Lebovits wrote in his judgement that the damages were too high, and the Olsons could either accept $120 million or have a new trial on damages.
The lowered settlement includes $15 million of compensatory damages and $105 million of punitive damages, down from an original $25 million and $300 million, respectively.
Johnson & Johnson said it will appeal the verdict, citing “significant legal and evidentiary errors” at the trial.
“We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important,” the company said. “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free, and does not cause cancer.”
Jerome Block, a lawyer for the Olsons, said they were satisfied with the result and confident it would stand. He also said Donna Olson’s mesothelioma “is at an advanced stage, and we are hoping for the best.”
Donna Olson had testified that she used Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower daily for more than 50 years.
The most recent judgement comes as the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company is appealing to the US Supreme Court a $2.12 billion damages award in Missouri to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in its baby powder and other talc products.
Talc is a mineral and can sometimes be found in the ground in close proximity to asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied that its products ever contained asbestos and says they do not cause cancer.
The pharmaceutical giant maintains that several studies have shown its talc to be safe.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including Johnson & Johnson, from 2009 to 2010. It found no asbestos in any of them.