For the second time in 2 months Johnson & Johnson (J&J) finds itself facing a multimillion-dollar verdict in an asbestos-contaminated-talc trial. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County jury handed down their decision that Johnson & Johnson, and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. branch, should pay $21.7 Million in compensatory damages to a 68-year-old woman whose decades-long use of asbestos-contaminated Baby Powder allegedly led to her development of mesothelioma.
In a separate announcement on Thursday, the jury determined J&J should pay an additional $4 Million in punitive damages, bringing the total verdict to $25.7 Million. These additional damages were awarded because the jury found that J&J deliberately acted with “malice, oppression or fraud.”
This is the second verdict in a quickly emerging front of litigation against J&J and its talc-based products. In addition to a growing number of mesothelioma lawsuits, the company still faces over 6,500 claims against them from women who argue its talc-based Baby Powder is responsible for their ovarian cancer.
Talc-Asbestos Mesothelioma Link Sharpens Further into Focus
With this trial verdict, another injured consumer has prevailed against J&J in a case linking its iconic talc products to mesothelioma, a lethal cancer caused exclusively by asbestos exposure. In the first trial of its kind (in November 2017), a California jury ruled in favor of J&J, but that was before the revelation of new evidence, which perhaps served to steer the second and the third trials toward J&J’s culpability.
In January, the nonprofit investigative news outlet FairWarning uncovered several internal J&J documents that seemed to demonstrate J&J’s knowledge of asbestos-contamination in several of its talc-based products. These findings were compounded by past discoveries, in which internal memos between officials showed the company knew of asbestos contamination since at least 1969.
With a second trial verdict against J&J, the link between talc and asbestos is becoming clearer and clearer — and so does the validity of the claim that J&J and its subsidiaries knowingly hid asbestos risks from the American public.
J&J Losses Pave A New Way Forward
Recent victories against the healthcare giant bode well for an already embattled American public that is sick and tired of multibillion-dollar corporations knowingly taking advantage of consumers.
In light of a 20-percent drop in sales (from 2011 to 2017), steadily sinking stock prices, and a 14-percent dip in first-quarter sales, J&J overhauled its entire Baby Care unit earlier this month, making alterations to some of its core products, such as Baby Powder, Baby Head-to-Toe, and Baby Bedtime Wash, among others.
Though the Baby Care line relaunch comes after a slew of trial defeats linking J&J’s talc-based Baby Powder to ovarian cancer (a separate wave of litigation), the company continues to stand by its claims that they are not making changes because of public safety concerns: "We are absolutely certain that science shows that our talcum product is safe, and we will defend our brand and defend our product," said Jorge Mesquita, worldwide chairman of J&J’s consumer unit.
As part of its revamping, J&J has reconfigured its Baby Powder to now include cotton, Mesquita added, but the product will still contain talc, the very substance mired in endless controversy.
A Two-Pronged Attack against Talc
It’s important to note that asbestos-in-talc cases – in which consumers were diagnosed with mesothelioma – are separate and distinct from talc-and-ovarian-cancer cases. These asbestos cases focus on geological evidence that the talc used in certain J&J products is tainted by asbestos, as both talc and asbestos occur together naturally and are therefore inextricably linked in the mining process.
A separate line of talc lawsuits allege that female consumers were diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a result of consistent and prolonged application of J&J’s talc-based products to the genital area for hygienic purposes. In these cases, it’s the talc itself that is linked to ovarian cancer.
Whatever the case, whatever the cancer, Johnson & Johnson continues to find itself in court facing claims that their products have severely harmed, irrevocably injured, or even killed unsuspecting consumers. By seeking justice through the U.S. court system, mesothelioma lawsuits are one of the only ways to ensure corporations operating with reckless indifference are held liable for the deaths, diseases, and destruction they have knowingly caused – all in the name of profit.