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Houston’s Mark Lanier Wins $4.7 Billion Verdict in Talcum Case

The largest jury award in the U.S. this year went against Johnson & Johnson 

Super Lawyers online-exclusive

Online Exclusive

In the largest jury award in the U.S. this year, a St. Louis jury on July 12 awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages, plus $550 million in compensatory damages, to nearly two dozen women and their families who claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer.

Houston personal injury attorney Mark Lanier, with The Lanier Law Firm, was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. He argued during the six-week trial that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contains asbestos, and that the company knew this but failed to warn customers. In fact, Lanier accused the company of rigging tests for asbestos in its products and of hiding evidence of asbestos for over four decades.

“The hidden asbestos has created a national catastrophe. Asbestos is a known cause of many cancers, and the authorities are clear: There is no safe level of exposure,” Lanier says.

Asbestos fibers were found mixed with talc in the ovaries of many of the 22 women, Lanier says. Six of the plaintiffs have died of ovarian cancer.

This was the first case blaming ovarian cancer on asbestos exposure. It was also the first case claiming a link between Johnson & Johnson baby powder and ovarian cancer-causing asbestos. Johnson & Johnson faces more than 9,000 claims over its powder.

The Missouri jury deliberated for eight hours before awarding the compensatory damages, and less than an hour on the punitive portion, which was among the highest ever awarded in a products liability case.  The highest, just over $9 billion, was Lanier’s 2014 verdict involving Actos diabetes medication. Johnson & Johnson denies that its products contain asbestos and vows to appeal the verdict.

Lanier says, “This should serve as a wake-up call for J&J to get the asbestos out of their baby powder and quit rigging the tests used to hide the asbestos.”

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