A jury in the U.S. state of Missouri initially awarded $550m in compensation and added $4.1bn in punitive damages. Six out of the 22 women represented in court have succumbed to ovarian cancer. Six of the 22 women died.
Jurors announced the award for compensatory damages Thursday in a lawsuit that included 22 plaintiffs.
As this blog post points out, Johnson & Johnson has been hit with some million-dollar punitive damages awards in other talcum powder cases.
The jury decided against Johnson & Johnson on the plaintiffs' claims of strict liability and negligence for producing unsafe products and failing to warn of the dangers. Imerys SA, the company that supplied the powder was also sued and settled the claim for $5 million.
It is the latest case that has hit Johnson & Johnson who have previously been hit by several thousand lawsuits against them. It says that there have been worries for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proved by research and more studies are needed.
Despite inconclusive evidence, there have been concerns that using talcum powder on the genitals can lead to ovarian cancer. No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples, the agency said.
The US Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including of J&J's Baby Powder.
"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", said Mr. Lanier.
"Faced with all this, what does the company do?"
He said he expected J&J would go through the appeals process but would ultimately wind up settling the case. "Don't let them get off".
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and defense lawyers probably would file a motion to reduce the award.
J&J denied any contamination with asbestos or any rigged testing. Bicks asked. "Does that make common sense, when Johnson & Johnson is doing all this testing?"
Bicks described the plight of the plaintiffs as "gut-wrenching, " but said that "because something bad happened doesn't mean that Johnson & Johnson had anything to do with it". The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
"Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process", it said in a statement. This was the first trial to argue that talc in baby powder contains cancer-causing asbestos.
'The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a awful disease'. J&J sells the same powders in a marvelously safe corn starch variety.
Plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier (left), said that Johnson & Johnson knew asbestos was in their products.
Previous talc-cancer trials have focused on claims that the talc itself, rather than asbestos, causes ovarian cancer, or that asbestos in talc causes mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Nationwide, Johnson & Johnson is fighting around 9,000 other talc cases.