Johnson & Johnson has been hit with its biggest penalty yet over the allegation that its talcum powders cause cancer.
A Missouri jury decided Thursday that the pharma and consumer goods giant should pay a whopping $4.69 billion—$550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages—to 22 women who say J&J’s talc-based products gave them ovarian cancer.
The claims rest on the fact that talc, a clay mineral, is often found in deposits alongside asbestos ore, which definitely is a cancer risk.
J&J says there is no asbestos in its baby powder and other talc-based products, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a survey in 2009 and 2010 that seemed to back this up. However, the prosecution in this case argued that J&J and the FDA’s tests were flawed.
The company faces around 9,000 of these cases. The previous highest damages ruling was for $417 million, in August last year. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages.
J&J says it will appeal the latest verdict, which it argues is “the product of a fundamentally unfair process.”
“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” the company said.
Its shares fell 1.9% following the ruling.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mark Lanier, said in a statement that J&J should either pull its talc products from shelves or mark them with a “serious warning.”