Johnson & Johnson Found Liable in Talc Cases – Jury Awards Plaintiff’s $4.7B

According to a recent News Article from The Guardian, Johnson & Johnson has been found liable in a class action lawsuit in which 22 women alleged to have developed ovarian cancer after years of using talc products manufactured by the defendant.  In this case, the jury awarded $4.7 billion in damages to the various plaintiffs.

asbestos exposure attorneyCourt records indicated six of the 22 plaintiffs died from ovarian cancer, and the jury was convinced by allegations Johnson & Johnson took conscious efforts to cover up the fact that there was asbestos present in many of the company’s products through more than four decades of marketing them to consumers.

Our Boston talcum powder lawsuit attorneys note Johnson & Johnson and a number of other manufacturers have advertised baby powder as a safe and gentile product that is excellent in relief of redness, rashes, and in keeping the skin free of excess moisture, which can lead to fungus and bacterial growth. Talcum powder is made from talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral that has been mined from the earth for thousands of years.  Talc consists of silica, oxygen, and magnesium. While talc is probably safe, it forms in the same geographical areas, and under the same geological conditions, as asbestos.

Asbestos is also a naturally occurring mineral, but asbestos is comprised of six silica-based elements.  Asbestos is very dangerous to humans.  Asbestos is responsible for the development of mesothelioma, which is almost always fatal, as well as other dangerous medical conditions such as asbestosis, and other serious respiratory infections.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in a layer of tissue known as the mesothelium, and this is where the deadly form of cancer gets its name. When the deadly asbestos fibers enter the human body after being ingested or inhaled, the body has no way to expel the fibers.  They are also microscopic, so they are very hard to find by a doctor unless a destructive biopsy is performed.  Doctors will not typically perform a biopsy unless a patient presents with symptoms of mesothelioma which can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain

The problem is that asbestos is almost never caught early since it normally takes decades for a patient to develop noticeable symptoms and then they are normally shocked to learn they only have between one and three years left to live.  While there is no cure for mesothelioma, it is treatable. But that comes at a serious reduction to a patient’s quality of life in many cases as radiation, chemotherapy, and a radical bisection are needed, and even in these cases, the patient is often only given a short addition to the time remaining. This extreme pain and suffering and loss coupled with the fact that asbestos companies spent years saying their products were safe is one of the reasons for such high verdicts in many mesothelioma lawsuits.

Unfortunately, we are seeing history repeat itself with talcum powder cases, as countless women are developing deadly cases of ovarian cancer and the talcum powder companies are still claiming their products are safe.  However, as we can see from this major blow to the talcum powder makers in lawsuits and our success on behalf of our clients in the past, juries are starting to recognized the dangers of talcum powder products.  Companies are being held liable for lying to customers. To make matters worse, these products are often marketed as baby powder so plaintiffs are being exposed to talcum power from literally the day they are born.  This is why we are seeing much younger women developing deadly cancer, than we see with traditional asbestos cases where the plaintiffs likely suffered from occupational exposure to asbestos products.

The trial which resulted in this nearly $5 billion verdict for plaintiffs lasted six weeks. But the case had been filed much earlier as these cases often take time to make their way through the system.  There is very little chance the defendant will not appeal this verdict and try to have it overturned or reduced, but our hope is that with this verdict, and others like it in the future, manufacturers of talcum powder products will realize they will not likely do well at trial and will be much more likely to make proper restitution to victims.

Experts for plaintiffs testified that asbestos is the primary cause of women’s cancer and it is regularly present in defendant’s talcum powder products. When doctors performed biopsies of cancer-stricken ovaries in more than 9,000 female victims, they found asbestos particles and talc particles so there is no question these deadly carcinogens from these products are making their way into patients’ ovary tissues.

It should be noted Johnson & Johnson has continued to claim its products are safe and free of asbestos, and have called the process unfair. The company says it has faced overwhelming prejudice by juries and verdicts that do not line up with provable scientific fact.  One of the things defendants are latching onto is that while there have been studies showing ovarian cancer can be caused by exposure to talc, and asbestos, which is present in talc, there have been no showing that the more talc you use, the more likely you are to develop cancer. While this may seem like a minor distinction, and it clearly seemed that way to juries, companies are making billions off the sale of talcum powder and do not want to lose out on sales of a product that is very cheap to strip-mine and process and sell at high markup.  This is exactly the type of behavior we have seen for more than a century from producers of asbestos.

With respect to the study results in question, those who have performed the studies say that there is no evidence such a link does not exist. But they need additional funding to perform tests that may prove there is a distinct correlation between increased use of talcum powder and an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer.  For this reason at least one women’s health charitable organization is asking for donations to perform more testing, since the federal government has been less than willing to perform much needed testing on talcum powder products.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn over talc cancer claims, July 13, 2018, The Guardian

More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog

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