The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a Missouri jury’s $2.1 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson after finding its talcum powder products gave 22 women ovarian cancer, saying the consolidation of such cases hampers defendants’ due process rights.
In this injury litigation, in which 22 ovarian cancer patients and surviving spouses won $2.1 billion, of which $1.6 billion were punitive damages, the jury awarded each of the plaintiffs an identical amount as compensation for what the business groups said were widely varying injuries.
A Missouri appeals court cut the original $4.7 billion verdict by more than half, but left alone the jury’s finding that asbestos and other carcinogens in J&J’s talc products caused the women’s cancers. In November, the state’s high court refused to take up J&J’s appeal, leading the company to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Some observers of product liability law have questioned whether it’s fair to group plaintiffs with different outcomes, saying that alone can stoke higher punitive damages. If the high court does review the case, it could be a chance to place new constraints on juries’ power to award punitive damages.