The court’s $2 billion verdict remains as stated.
In the late 2010s, Johnson & Johnson relaunched its line of baby care products, including one of their most prolific brands, Johnson’s Baby Powder. However, in 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated a recall of at least 33,000 bottles of baby powder after traces of asbestos were discovered in one of them. Numerous lawsuits were presented against Johnson & Johnson, primarily from women who have claimed that the asbestos present in the powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
A massive legal battle ensued, escalating all the way to the US Supreme Court, but in the end, the plaintiffs won out, leaving Johnson & Johnson to pay over $4 billion in damages, adjusted down to $2 billion after consideration by a state appeals court. Johnson & Johnson submitted another appeal directly to the Supreme Court in an effort to lesson or undo the $2 billion penalty, but the Court turned their appeal away. All Justices, save for Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh who both recused themselves from consideration, agreed that the appeal would not be heard.
Former prosecutor Ken Starr, who represented the plaintiffs, chimed in after Johnson & Johnson submitted their appeal, saying that the company “knew for decades that their talc powders contained asbestos, a highly carcinogenic substance with no known safe exposure level.”
“They could have protected customers by switching from talc to cornstarch, as their own scientists proposed as early as 1973. But talc was cheaper and petitioners were unwilling to sacrifice profits for a safer product,” he wrote.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorney, Neal Katyal, responded that “federal regulators and respected health organizations have rejected calls for warnings on talc, and comprehensive epidemiological studies tracking tens of thousands of talc users have found no meaningful association between cosmetic talc use and ovarian cancer.”