Talcum-Mesothelioma Verdict $29 Million against Johnson & Johnson

(March 19, 2019)  A California jury awarded a woman a talcum powder-mesothelioma verdict  of $29 million against Johnson & Johnson on March 13.  The woman sued J&J over asbestos contained in the company’s baby powder which, she said, caused her to develop mesothelioma.

Plaintiff Terry Leavitt said she routinely used two of J&J’s talcum powder products in the 1960s and ’70s.  She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. Mesothelioma is a cancer linked to asbestos exposure.  The latency period for mesothelioma can be 30-40 years.

The jury deliberated for two days before finding that J&J’s talc-based products were defective and caused Ms. Leavitt’s mesothelioma.  The jury also ruled that J&J failed to warn the public about the risks. The California Superior Court jury in Oakland awarded the plaintiff and her husband $29.4 million in damages.

Thousands of Talc-Cancer Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits which allege that J&J talc-based products have harmed people.  The Leavitt lawsuit was the first to go to trial since December 2018 stories published by Reuters and The New York Times reported that, for several years, J&J had feared that its baby powder might contain asbestos.  The company still denies, as it did throughout the latest trial, that its talcum powder contains asbestos.

J&J said it would appeal the verdict.  Reuters reported that the company claimed the trial was marred by “serious procedural and evidentiary errors.”  J&J also countered in a statement:  “The jury verdicts are not medical, scientific, or regulatory conclusions about a product.”

J&J Executive:  Talc Asbestos Powder

In December 2018, documents showed that J&J knew for decades that its baby powder was laced with small amounts of asbestos.  The deadly material can occur naturally underground near talcum, which is mined.  In the 1970s, a J&J executive warned that the company’s talc mines might not be free of asbestos.  The New York Times reported that a company memo said some of J&J talc products sometimes contained materials that “might be classified as asbestos powder.”

13,000 Lawsuits over J&J Talcum Powder

Recent cases have tested talc’s link to mesothelioma, but many other cases allege talc powder has caused ovarian cancer.  According to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson now faces more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits nationwide.

$4.7 Billion Talc-Cancer Verdict

In 2018, a jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay 22 women $4.7 billion after  the women alleged that they developed ovarian cancer from using J&J talcum powder products.  More than $4 billion of the jury award consisted of punitive damages, which are designed to punish a defendant for wrongdoing.  In December  2018, J&J failed to convince a judge to throw out that verdict , but the company vowed to appeal that decision.

J&J Denies Talc Contains Asbestos

Despite several jury verdicts over a talc cancer link, J&J has always denied that its talcum has ever contained asbestos.   J&J claims that decades of medical studies have demonstrated that its talc is safe.  J&J has stated:  “Research, clinical evidence and nearly 40 years of studies by independent medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of talc.”

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