(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson persuaded an appeals court to throw out a more than $223 million jury award to a group of ex-Baby Powder users who blamed their cancers on asbestos in the talc-based version of the product.
The Superior Court of New Jersey’s appellate division concluded Tuesday that a lower-court judge erred by allowing jurors to hear improper scientific testimony linking the J&J product to the four plaintiffs’ cancers, according to court filings.
The ruling comes as J&J is gearing up to face a spate of jury trials early next year over allegations its executives knew since the early 1970s their talc contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators. J&J contends there’s no asbestos in its talc and the company has properly marketed it for more than 100 years.
J&J shares were largely unchanged in late morning trading, down about 0.4% to $154.72
The jury in the case originally awarded the plaintiffs $750 million in February 2020, but the judge subsequently slashed it, citing state caps on punitive damages.
The trials are in the wake of a bankruptcy judge’s decision in July to throw out the Chapter 11 filing of a J&J unit that was designed to propel an $8.9 billion settlement of all current and future talc lawsuits. The judge found J&J misused the bankruptcy process by having its LTL Management subsidiary file for protection from creditors in hopes of forcing a resolution of the cases.
“This marks the third time in three years that an appellate court has overturned outsized verdicts that asbestos lawyers secured by confusing and misleading juries with unscientific opinions touting baseless liability theories,” Erik Haas, a J&J vice president, said Tuesday in an emailed statement.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company pulled its talc-based powders off the market in the US and Canada in 2020, citing slipping sales, and eventually replaced them with a cornstarch-based version. J&J has vowed to withdraw all its talc-based baby powders worldwide by the end of this year.
The appellate case is Barden vs. Brenntag North America, No A-0047-20, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.