The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a final appeal from Johnson & Johnson, allowing a $2.1 billion baby powder cancer verdict against the company to stand, NBC News and other outlets reported.
Last week’s denial ends Johnson & Johnson’s attempts to overturn a record $4.7 billion 2018 verdict in favor of 22 women who claimed that talc in the company’s baby powder was contaminated with asbestos and caused their ovarian cancer.
In November the Missouri Supreme Court likewise refused to consider Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a lower court decision upholding the original finding of liability while reducing the verdict to $2.1 billion.
Original Trial Wasn’t Fair and No Link to Cancer, Johnson & Johnson Argued
In its petition to the Supreme Court Johnson & Johnson argued that the link between its products and ovarian cancer had not been proven and that the original trial was unfair, as reported by The Washington Post.
Johnson & Johnson claimed that allowing plaintiffs from multiple states to participate in the same lawsuit created confusion over facts and legalities, thus preventing the jury from making a clear decision about the company’s liability.
In response, attorneys for the 22 women pointed out that grouping plaintiffs together in a case where the same product has hurt multiple consumers is a well-documented and accepted practice.
The original trial included cases from 12 states that were consolidated in a Missouri state court in a legal procedure known as multidistrict litigation. In multidistrict litigation, or MDLs, multiple plaintiffs targeting the same defendant for the same set of issues are combined to conserve the court’s time and resources and reduce costs for the plaintiffs.
Johnson & Johnson also argued that the high fines were harsh and unusual punishment. However, attorneys for the women disagreed, stating that the fines within the range that courts have upheld as not disproportionate punishment.
The Supreme Court did not give a reason for its refusal, as is customary.
While Johnson & Johnson maintains that it did not dispute the safety of its products in their appeal due to their belief in the safety of their entire product line, the company discontinued talc-based baby powder sales in the U.S. and Canada in May 2020.