On March 14, a California jury awarded a San Leandro resident $29 million after determining that Johnson & Johnson was aware that its talc-based baby powder product was contaminated and failed to warn the plaintiff.
In August 2017, Ms. Leavitt, the plaintiff, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, cancer in the lining of the internal organs typically associated with asbestos exposure.
The plaintiff used the Johnson & Johnson talc-based products for over three decades and claimed they were the cause of her cancer developing.
The jury in the Alameda County Superior Court hearing awarded Leavitt $1.2 million for her lost wages, $1.3 million for medical costs, $5 million to compensate family members and $22 million for pain and suffering. The company's shares declined sharply following the $29 million verdicts.
Publicly, Johnson & Johnson claims that its products are safe for consumers. However, it's been made evident through documentation that there were ongoing concerns for years regarding the carcinogenic asbestos often found underground nearby talc.
Following the verdict, J&J issued a statement expressing disappointment with the decision, citing serious evidentiary and procedural errors throughout the proceeding. The company plans to appeal the decision eventually.
Despite mixed results with previous appeals, J&J champions decades of test results claiming their powder didn’t cause cancer or contain any asbestos. So far, over 13,000 people have filed lawsuits against J&J claiming that its talc-based products cause cancer.
A New York Times report in 2018 revealed that the company had spent decades concealing negative information about the potential risks associated with asbestos.
According to the complaint, J&J had possessed scientific and medical data since the early 1900s concerning the amount of asbestos in talcum powder and subsequent health hazards of those exposed to products with talcum powder.
During a regulatory filing in March, J&J acknowledged that it had received subpoenas from the Securities Exchange Commission and the Justice Department about its talcum powder products.
During July 2018, 22 women claiming that asbestos in J&J products had caused their ovarian cancer were awarded a sum of $4.69 billion by a Missouri jury. Johnson & Johnson lost its motion to reverse that verdict in December and their appeal is currently pending.
On March 12, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy listened to testimony about talc-based personal beauty products being potentially contaminated with asbestos.
According to an epidemiologist from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, talcum substantially increases the risk of cancer. Federal agencies estimate that over 2,000 products, personal care, and beauty included, still use talc in some way shape or form.