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A California jury reached a $29 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson and Cyprus Mines Corporation, a talc supplier. The jury concluded that the responsible companies must pay Teresa Leavitt over $29 million after she was exposed to asbestos through the long-term use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. Leavitt claims that the talcum powder is the reason that she has developed mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos.
The jury concluded that Johnson & Johnson knew that their baby powder was contaminated, as well as the potential risks, but failed to warn consumers like Leavitt. Leavitt had used their talc products for over 30 years, before receiving her cancer diagnosis in August 2017.
As with many other claims against Johnson & Johnson, the company is fighting the verdict and seeking an appeal, asserting that there were “serious procedural and evidentiary errors.” In the past, J&J has referenced decades of testing that has shown their baby powder is asbestos-free and has not caused cancer. However, the growing number of claims against the company suggest otherwise.
Growing Claims Against Johnson & Johnson
Back in July, a Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women claiming that asbestos-containing Johnson & Johnson products led to the development of ovarian cancer. The company lost in their attempt to reverse this verdict and their appeal is currently pending. In May, another woman was awarded $21.7 million by a Los Angeles jury after she claimed that asbestos in J&J baby powder led to her mesothelioma diagnosis.
Imerys Talc America, a talc supplier for J&J, voluntarily filed for bankruptcy last month in response to numerous litigation claims about asbestos contamination leading to cancer diagnoses. Rather than fighting the claims, the supplier’s president stated that they felt bankruptcy was the best way to handle the talc-related liabilities.
Issues surrounding J&J’s popular baby powder are not being overlooked. During a regulatory filing last month, Johnson & Johnson stated that it received subpoenas from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Submission to gain additional details about its talc products. The company is being investigated by the U.S. Federal Government based on the asbestos contamination claims.
News agencies have also been investigating after reports emerged that company executives knew about asbestos in their baby powder for decades. A 2017 report confirms that they have been aware of the asbestos issues since the 1970s, and in the meantime, thousands of lawsuits have been brought against the company. However, they continue to deny allegations.
Concerns of Asbestos Use in Talcum Powder
Baby powder is a common product used for many different reasons, such as to help absorb moisture, prevent chafing, preventing rashes, and much more. In many cases, consumers have used the contaminated talc product for years, putting them more at risk of developing cancers like malignant mesothelioma, as a result of long-term asbestos exposure. Not all talcum powder has been contaminated with asbestos, though consumers should be aware that it is a common asbestos product.
Retailers, consumers, federal agencies, the government, and the public are reacting to news like the $29 million verdict. Johnson & Johnson’s stocks have fallen 1% so far. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that Claire’s, a popular children and teen’s store, had been selling cosmetics contaminated with asbestos. The company asserts that they have stopped selling the products and planned to destroy any existing problematic inventory. A testimony has also been brought to the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy regarding asbestos contamination in talc-based personal care products.
With concerns rising, more and more individuals are becoming aware of the dangers of asbestos and the development of cancers like mesothelioma. Efforts to hold companies accountable for knowingly putting consumers at risk continue to expand awareness, which is crucial to achieving a full ban of the carcinogen in the United States.