A November appeal lowered the award amount but maintained Johnson & Johnson’s liability. However, the company still claims its talc products are safe to use. Johnson & Johnson continues to be named in asbestos lawsuits after customers develop cancer.
Verdict Eases Financial Burden on Mesothelioma Victim
The plaintiff, Donna Olson, and her husband won the case following a 14-week trial in 2019.
At the conclusion of that trial, a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the couple $325 million. The New York State Supreme Court reviewed the case. There, a judge lowered the payout. However, Johnson & Johnson’s liability was maintained.
Details of the Olsons’ Payout
- $15 million of compensatory damages
- $105 million of punitive damages
Donna Olson’s Mesothelioma Journey
Donna Olson was diagnosed with mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or Shower to Shower products daily for more than 50 years.
She filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in 2017, following her diagnosis.
Her lawyer has stated Olson is currently battling advanced pleural mesothelioma.
Dangers of Asbestos Exposure for Half of a Century
No amount of asbestos exposure is safe. However, long-term exposure is often more likely to lead to an asbestos-related diagnosis, such as mesothelioma.
In many cases, victims of Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-contaminated talc experienced decades of exposure.
Each time women such as Donna Olson applied Johnson & Johnson talc products, they may have inhaled or ingested airborne asbestos fibers.
Once in the body, these fibers may embed in the lining of the organs and could lead to:
Asbestos from these products can also travel to the ovaries through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. As a result, victims may develop ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson’s History of Cancer-Related Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson faces nearly 22,000 claims that its talc products caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
In May 2020, the company announced it would stop selling the talc-based powders in the United States. Johnson & Johnson claimed this was a “commercial decision” and unrelated to lawsuits or product safety.
The company’s decision to stop selling the talc-based baby powders in the U.S. doesn’t mean consumers aren’t at risk from using the product in the past. It can take 10 – 50 years for mesothelioma to develop following asbestos exposure.
Documents Show Decades of Asbestos-Tainted Talc Use
The Olsons’ legal team presented documentation showing Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and talc products sometimes tested positive for asbestos from as early as 1971 to the early 2000s.
In the Olsons’ trial, their lawyers presented documents showing Johnson & Johnson executives were aware the talc was contaminated with asbestos.
Internal Johnson & Johnson documents from the 1960s and 1970s warn executives of asbestos in the company’s talc.
The Olsons’ legal team alleged the company changed testing methods to avoid asbestos detection.
Next Steps Following the State Supreme Court Decision
Johnson & Johnson has not accepted responsibility in the asbestos-related cancer cases. Company spokespeople have said they will be appealing the verdict in the Olson case.
The company is also going through the appeals process for an asbestos-related ovarian cancer lawsuit.
A Missouri woman filed against the company after she developed cancer from its asbestos-contaminated talc products. She won the initial case and was awarded $2.12 billion in damages.
The award and verdict were upheld by the Missouri State Supreme Court on November 3, 2020. Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. A date for this appeal has not been set.