J&J Loses One Talcum Powder Case and Wins Another

By - June 11, 2019
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Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay more than $25 million to a woman who said she got mesothelioma through using baby powder and other talc products made by the healthcare giant. (latimes.com)

The verdict in New York for Donna Olson, 66, against J&J and the entire consumer products unit only has to do with compensatory damages. The jury will come back soon to think about the assessment of punitive damages against J&J over how they mishandled their talc-based products.

Johnson & Johnson is now facing at least 14,000 claims that its baby powder products can lead to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. The company has always denied that its baby powder products ever contained asbestos. It also argues that its talc products do not cause any illnesses that threaten life.

Olson said during the trial that she has pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of her lungs.

Also, a jury in South Carolina found that J&J was not liable for the mesothelioma of a woman that she blamed on J&J’s baby powder product. The company requested the case be moved to a federal court in April, but the judge sent it back to the state court for a trial.

J&J’s Record At Trial Is a Mixed Bag

Johnson & Johnson lost a $29 million verdict in a mesothelioma case in California in March but also won a trial in New Jersey that same month. That was the same day it reached a settlement on three other cases. J&J also prevailed in California April 5. There is another trial in California that still is in process.

The healthcare company stated it will file an appeal in the case in New York. A company spokeswoman said that the New York trial had several legal and evidentiary problems. One of the most serious, she claimed, was the ‘obviously false’ testimony from the central expert for the plaintiff.

Johnson & Johnson claims that scientist William Longo has lied in other cases about where he got samples of talc in which he found asbestos traces. The judge in the New York case still allowed Longo to testify as an expert witness for the plaintiff.

The verdict in New York was the 10th win for talc cancer plaintiffs since trials for cancer claims related to J&J’s talcum powder products started in 2016, per data collected by Bloomberg. J&J has prevailed in seven verdicts. Jurors could not reach a decision in three talc cancer cases. The company also has settled in four legal cases. Some of the verdicts for plaintiffs have been overturned and others are still being appealed.

Olson is a former Manhattan resident who today resides in Delaware. She said that she used Johnson & Johnson baby powder from age 8 until she was married in 1984. She said the baby powder would make a cloud around her as she applied it and she inhaled some talc particles.

Mendez announced a ruling before the trial that as Olson argued the company had put its profits ahead of the safety and health of consumers, the jurors could then weigh awarding punitive damages in the case.

Massive Verdict In St. Louis Last Year

In 2018, St Louis jurors hit Johnson & Johnson with a huge $4.69 billion verdict after a trial that combined the cancer claims of 22 women who had allegedly contracted ovarian cancer from J&J’s baby powder products. At the time, J&J stated it was disappointed with the verdict, which it said was due to a very unfair process that allowed the plaintiffs to present the group of women, most of them who were not residents of Missouri, in one case that alleged they all developed ovarian cancer.

At the conclusion of 2018, Reuters released a highly damaging report that claimed the company knew about, and tried to conceal, the asbestos in its talc products for decades. Plaintiffs’ attorneys had earlier highlighted the internal J&J documents that showed many conversations among J&J executives about its asbestos testing. (fiercepharma.com)

After the big verdict in St. Louis, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told the media the company has concerns about the fairness of the lawsuits. He said he has sympathy to all the patients, but that drugmakers are always highly attractive targets for major lawsuits.

Gorsky said when a person has a diagnosis or issue that they want to understand, they have a tendency to want to sue a large company, in part because the healthcare industry is so litigious. But he added that J&J does its best to always put safety and quality first in all that the company does.

At the latest filing for the quarter, J&J was facing at least 14,200 cases that alleged harm from its baby powder products. Several of the company’s suppliers of talc have filed for bankruptcy protection, including Imerys.


Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Talc Cases. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-johnson-baby-powder-talc-cancer-20190521-story.html

J&J Wins South Carolina Talc Case, Suffers $25 Million Verdict in New York. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/j-j-wins-south-carolina-talc-case-suffers-25m-verdict-new-york-same-day

Melinda J.
Melinda J.

Editor-in-Chief of TalcumPowderSafety. Since 1999, she's worked across a multitude of areas of consumer protection including defective products, environmental issues, identity theft, predatory lending and more.

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