Supreme Court leaves J&J on the hook for $2.1B verdict

June 1, 2021

The Supreme Court has rejected J&J’s attempt to overturn a verdict that originally gave 20 plaintiffs one of the largest legal awards in U.S. history. 

Without comment, the court refused to hear J&J’s appeal of a decision made by a St. Louis jury in 2018 related to the presence of asbestos in the company’s baby powder.  The decade-long legal battle stemmed from claims that J&J knew its popular baby powder product contained the cancer-causing chemical, but covered it up and did not alert the FDA.

The jury originally awarded 20 women who claimed that they subsequently got ovarian cancer from the product $25 million each in compensatory damages and then another $4 billion in punitive damages — the 6th largest verdict in legal history. A state appeals court later slashed the award in half. 

Although J&J has lost a number of cases related to its talc-based baby powder, it has won a number too — but the company is still staring down about 25,000 similar lawsuits. 

The company disclosed early this year that it has set aside about $4 billion for talc-related legal fees and settlements.