On Thursday afternoon, news broke that a New Jersey state jury had ordered Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.09%) to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four plaintiffs. The jury had concluded that the company's baby powder product had contained carcinogenic substances and the company hadn't properly informed consumers about the risk.
Johnson & Johnson faces over 16,800 lawsuits concerning its talc products, which are alleged to have contained carcinogenic substances that directly lead to ovarian cancer and rare cancers such as mesothelioma. Although the pharmaceutical giant has denied that any of its products contained carcinogens, a separate jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $37.3 million in compensatory damages during the first phase of this same case back in 2019.
While the jury ordered the company to pay $750 million to the four individuals, presiding judge Ana C. Viscomi stated that she would reduce the fine to just $186.5 million. Under state law, punitive damages can't be more than five times the amount of compensatory damages fined.
A growing number of legal defeats
Johnson's Baby Powder is one of the company's most recognizable products, with an extensive history that goes back to 1894. The trial also marked the first time in which Johnson & Johnson's CEO, Alex Gorsky, testified in the courtroom over the safety of the company's Baby Powder product.
In recent years, the company has been on the receiving end of a number of significant fines. Back in 2018, a separate lawsuit regarding the company's talc products resulted in Johnson & Johnson being forced to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed to have contracted ovarian cancer through those products.