A New Jersey state jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four people who said their use of the company’s talcum powders caused a rare cancer, the latest legal loss for the health-care giant.
The judge presiding over the trial, Ana C. Viscomi of New Jersey Superior Court, citing state law, said she planned to reduce the punitive award to $186.5 million, or about five times the $37.3 million in compensatory damages awarded by a separate jury in the first phase of the case last year.
The trial was notable because it was the first in which J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorskytestified in a courtroom in litigation over the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder and another talc-containing powder that J&J used to market, Shower to Shower.
Mr. Gorsky in late January appeared in court a few blocks away from J&J’s New Brunswick, N.J., headquarters and testified the company took steps to ensure that its talc-containing powder was safe and didn’t contain asbestos.
The jury, however, voted Thursday that J&J’s conduct caused harm to the plaintiffs, who got mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, and that the conduct was either malicious or in wanton and willful disregard of their rights.