J&J lead attorney: We won’t be ‘intimidated’ into removing talc products after $4.7 billion cancer case damages

Johnson & Johnson lead attorney Bart Williams told CNBC on Friday that talc-based products, such as Baby Powder and other cosmetics, have been proven safe over and over by the “best scientists in America.”

J&J shares on Friday were lower after the company late Thursday was ordered to pay a record $4.7 billion to 22 women who alleged J&J’s talc-based products contained asbestos and caused cases of ovarian cancer.

Battling some 9,000 talc cases, J&J denies that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos. The company has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds. J&J said it would appeal the latest decision.

“The courts haven’t caught up to the science,” Williams said in a “Squawk Box” interview, reacting to the damages.

Following the massive St. Louis verdict, Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, called on J&J to pull its talc products from the market “before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”

Williams contended Friday on CNBC that “Johnson & Johnson doesn’t believe it should be intimidated into removing a product that’s been out over 100 years, that has diapered hundreds of millions of babies around the world, simply because plaintiff lawyers have put a target on the back of Johnson & Johnson.” He added, “We believe in the product. The product works. The product is beloved. The best scientists in America have reviewed it again and again.”

The women and their families said decadeslong use of Baby Powder and other J&J cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They also alleged J&J knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including J&J’s Baby Powder. No asbestos was found in any of the talc samples, the agency said.

But Lanier, during the trial, said that the FDA and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the proper detection of asbestos fibers.

Williams said it’s sad that jurors believe baseless claims that “it’s all rigged” and “all in a conspiracy.”

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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