A New York state judge has ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $120 million in damages to a Brooklyn couple, after the woman blamed her cancer on asbestos exposure from using the company’s baby powder.
According to Reuters, Justice Gerald Lebovits of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan reduced the amount on Wednesday from the $325 million a jury awarded Donna Olson, 67, and husband Robert Olson, 65, in May 2019.
While upholding the jury’s liability finding, the judge stated that the damages were too high, and the Olsons could either accept $120 million or have a new trial on damages.
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 representing 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.
Lebovits wrote that jurors could find that Johnson & Johnson was for many years “knowingly deceitful about” or “willfully blind to” potential health risks of its talc products, in part to maintain market share and profit.
Johnson & Johnson has faced intense scrutiny of its baby powder’s safety following a 2018 Reuters investigative report that found it knew for decades about asbestos in its talc.
According to Reuters, both internal company records, trial testimony and other evidence show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.