NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A New Jersey jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four cancer victims who charged that the company’s iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder contained cancer-causing asbestos.
In assessing the punitive damages on Thursday, the jury agreed that J&J had acted “maliciously or in wanton disregard” of the safety risks of the four plaintiffs. In addition to the size of the damages, the verdict is significant because it occurred just blocks away from J&J’s headquarters, said trial lawyer Chris Panatier of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier, who represented the plaintiffs, along with Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg in New York and Chris Placitella of Cohen, Placitella, & Roth in New Jersey.
“This case is really about the fact that J&J structured their last 50 years of conduct around concealing that there were, and have always been, asbestos fibers in their baby powder,” Mr. Panatier said. “They designed test methods that they knew lacked the sensitivity to detect the asbestos that was present and then on the occasions when asbestos was found, took steps to make excuses, blame non-existent contamination, delete and alter test results. The jury saw all of that.”
It was also the first time J&J CEO Alex Gorsky has taken the stand in a talc case. Under questioning from Mr. Panatier, Gorsky admitted that he had not made an effort to go through the actual relevant documents before going on national television to proclaim the safety of talc three days after a Reuters story alleging that J&J knew of and concealed the fact of asbestos in the product.
In September, a separate jury found Johnson & Johnson liable in the lawsuit by plaintiffs Douglas Barden, David Etheridge, D’Angela McNeill and Will Ronning and awarded $37.3 million in actual damages. That verdict set the stage for a separate trial to determine punitive damages.
The case is Barden, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al. in the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No.: MID-L-1809-17 AS.
Following the verdict, the judge who presided over the trial indicated that the award would be reduced to $186.5 million based on state law caps that limit punitive damages to five times the compensatory amount.
This is Simon Greenstone Panatier’s most recent win against Johnson & Johnson. In May 2018, attorneys David Greenstone and Mr. Panatier won a $25.75 million verdict after a California jury found manufacturing and design defects in Johnson’s Baby Powder due to the presence of asbestos. Shortly after the compensatory verdict in Barden, David Greenstone obtained a $40 million verdict in Los Angeles in Cabibi v. Johnson & Johnson, et al. The firm has earned numerous other verdicts on behalf of individuals in litigation related to talc-based products
Simon Greenstone Panatier, P.C., is a nationally recognized trial law firm with a reputation for creative and aggressive representation of clients in a wide variety of catastrophic personal injury matters nationwide.