Last February, a New Jersey jury told Johnson & Johnson they needed to pay four mesothelioma victims $750 million in punitive damages. That decision followed a trial that had found the company guilty of selling baby powder contaminated with asbestos, and which had assessed the company $37.3 million in compensatory damages. The punitive damages amount had already been lowered to $186 million in keeping with New Jersey law, but the pharmaceutical giant filed a motion to set aside or reduce the award further. This week Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi denied the company’s motion. In doing so, she called the company’s behavior “reprehensible.”
New Jersey Judge Refers to J&J’s “Direct Lies” in Mesothelioma Case
In handing down her ruling about the punitive damages owed to the mesothelioma victims, Judge Viscomi made clear her assessment of the company’s wrongdoings. She cited what she called “clear and convincing evidence” regarding the company’s “direct lies” to consumers, and their claims of using a procedure that “removed all impurities” even though the company’s executives knew that it did not filter out some asbestos fibers.
She also spoke to Johnson & Johnson’s failure to report the presence of asbestos to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The judge spoke of evidence presented in the mesothelioma lawsuit that had shown the company had pushed the agency to accept testing “that it knew was not sensitive enough to detect asbestos.” She pointed out that Johnson & Johnson had edited out “unfavorable test results from reports.”
Mesothelioma Case Ends With Judge Calling Johnson & Johnson’s Conduct “Reprehensible”
Putting an end to the mesothelioma lawsuit with her decision, Judge Viscomi denied the company’s arguments about courtroom conduct and decisions, saying, “J&J’s conduct here was reprehensible,” and added, “The award, modified by the Punitive Damages Act, is not so clearly disproportionate to the injury and does not shock the conscience of the court.”
The decision handed down by a special panel on February 6th responded to the original jury’s determination that the company had acted with willful disregard for the four mesothelioma victims, each of whom had used the company’s baby powder throughout their lives. Since losing several similar personal injury lawsuits, the company has announced that it will stop selling talc-based baby powder in the United States.
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