Jury Orders J&J to Pay $37 Million in Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Case
A jury in New Jersey has ruled that Johnson & Johnson and talc miner Imerys must pay $37 million to an investment banker who blamed the companies’ talcum powder products for causing him to develop mesothelioma, a deadly cancer linked to asbestos. According to a Bloomberg news report, jurors in New Brunswick concluded that J&J and Imerys hid the fact that their talc-based products including J&J’s popular baby powder had been contaminated by asbestos and caused Stephen Lanzo’s disease. The jury is expected to decide next week if the company should pay punitive damages in this case.
Asbestos in Talcum Powder Caused Cancer
This is the first time a jury has backed a consumer’s claims that J&J’s baby powder causes mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer caused by asbestos that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. More than 6,000 women have sued the company blaming talcum powder for causing their ovarian cancers. J&J and Imerys maintained during the trial that talc did not cause Lanzo’s cancer. They argued that he was exposed to asbestos from a different source such as his childhood home or schools he attended.
But jurors did not seem convinced by the defense attorneys’ arguments. The panel awarded Lanzo $30 million for his pain and suffering and his wife, Kendra, $7 million in damages. The jury deliberated less than a day before holding the companies liable. Under New Jersey law, jurors had to assess how much responsibility both companies bore for Lanzo’s injuries. They found J&J 70 percent liable and Imerys 30 percent. During the trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys produced internal J&J files showing company officials concerned that asbestos was contaminating their talcum powder products way back in 1969.
A research scientist for J&J mentioned in a confidential memo in 1969 that tests found asbestos in talc used to make baby powder. The scientist specifically cautioned J&J that they should be ready to face lawsuits if this information became public. Lanzo’s attorneys also alleged that Imerys destroyed critical evidence — talc samples that should have been turned over so they could have been tested for asbestos.
Justice for Victims
As talcum powder lawyers who fight for justice for women who have been endangered by these products, we are pleased the that New Jersey jury saw through J&J’s attempts to hide the facts. It is appalling that this corporation chose to expose its consumers including newborns and babies to a known carcinogen in spite of knowing that their talcum powder contained asbestos. We hope J&J and Imerys are held fully accountable for their wrongdoing and that these multi-million dollar verdicts serve as deterrents to other product manufacturers.