New Brunswick, New Jersey - Johnson & Johnson faced its first guilty verdict in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit last week. After the court reconvened this week, the manufacturing giant and an arm of Imerys, its talc supplier, now owe a $117 million verdict, with $37 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.
The lawsuit was brought by Stephen Lanzo and his wife, a mesothelioma victim who regularly used the company’s talcum powder products for decades. Though he is not the first asbestos talcum powder lawsuit victory overall, this is the first loss for Johnson & Johnson. Just a few months ago, the company won a similar mesothelioma lawsuit in California.
This verdict could set a precedent for future similar lawsuits, especially considering the court added on such a large sum in punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, which account for medical expenses and related costs, punitive damages are a more rare addition in these verdicts, as they imply a punishment for a dangerous product. Adding $80 million in punitive damages to this verdict shows the jury believes the company knowingly used contaminated talc for well over 40 years and negligently put consumers at risk.
The company has adamantly denied all claims that their talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos, which has led to the company facing over 6,000 lawsuits from consumers later diagnosed with ovarian and mesothelioma cancer.
As expected, representatives from the companies have already stated they plan to appeal this decision. Johnson & Johnson continues to argue that decades of testing have shown their talc sources have been safe and never posed a threat to consumer health. They even claimed their thorough testing regime of their talc was an expression of how much they care about their customers’ safety.
The company has had some success in lowering or overturning similar verdicts so far, but for now, the Lanzos and their lawyers are pleased to see the company is being held liable for its wrongdoings.