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US Supreme Court rejects Johnson & Johnson talc fine appeal

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Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Johnson's baby powder, announced a voluntary recall last year of 33,000 bottles of baby powder after federal regulators found trace amounts of asbestos in a single bottle of the product./AFP
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Jun 01, 2021 - 11:26 PM

WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court refused Tuesday to accept drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a $2.1 billion fine for selling baby powder containing cancer-causing asbestos.

The decision kept in place a 2018 jury award against the company after a class action law suit, originally set at $4.7 billion but later slashed on appeal.

As is common, the high court did not explain its decision, but left in place a federal appeals court judgment from last year supporting the fine.

The company’s shares were down 1.8 percent at $166.16 after the decision.

Two conservative judges on the court, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, recused themselves from the decision. Alito has owned shares in the company and Kavanaugh’s father was a lobbyist for it.

Johnson & Johnson had been punished for knowingly selling popular consumer products that contained asbestos, particularly its hugely popular baby powder.

The company has faced thousands of lawsuits across the United States alleging it failed to warn consumers of the risk of cancer from asbestos in its talc-based products.

Last year the firm announced it was discontinuing production of its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada, in part due to the “constant barrage of litigation advertising” over the product.

It will continue to sell the product in the rest of the world, it added.

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