An Alameda County jury in Oakland, California, awarded $29 million on March 13 to a woman who sued pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson claiming that the asbestos in its talcum-based baby powder caused her cancer. According to an ABC news report, the jury held J&J responsible for plaintiff Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure, through her use of talcum powder.
J&J, Talcum Powder and Asbestos
This is the latest is more than 13,000 pending product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson relating to body powders that contain talc. The largest award to date is $4.7 billion, which was awarded in July 2018. Johnson & Johnson has said it will appeal the Oakland verdict and continues to maintain that its baby powder is safe. In December 2018, Reuters published an in-depth investigation alleging that the company knew for decades that its talc contained asbestos and had obtained documents to prove it. J&J denied those allegations as well.
Reuters examined many documents including depositions and trial testimony, which showed that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, physicians and lawyers were concerned about the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to the public or to federal regulators. J&J spokespersons have denied hiding information and say their talc products have always been safe.
Justice for Victims
J&J, however, has vigorously fought lawsuits blaming cancer on its popular and iconic baby powder products in the past. Women who have filed these lawsuits say they were exposed to asbestos while inhaling the powder or while using it on their genitals. J&J actively and aggressively marketed its talcum powder products as deodorizers to women. The asbestos particles, when the talcum powder is used genitally, can travel up to the ovaries and cause cancer, many of these lawsuits state. More than 20,000 ovarian cancer cases are reported each year in the United States.
“Congratulations to the attorneys that obtained this verdict for a very well deserving client. We at B|C are doing these cases across the Country”–Brian Chase
As product defect attorneys who represent victims who have suffered cancer as a result of talcum powder products, we applaud this California jury for sending out a strong message to J&J, which has been denying that its products are unsafe and that it has deliberately concealed lifesaving information about its harmful products from consumers.