A Manhattan jury has awarded $25 million to a woman who claimed that she developed mesothelioma from prolonged exposure to asbestos-containing talcum powder.
The jury verdict ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay nearly $25 million in damages to a 66-year older woman diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer. According to the court documents, Plaintiff Donna A. Olson contended that she regularly used talcum powder, including Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, from her childhood - beginning roughly in the year 1953 to 2015 and that this exposure caused her to develop mesothelioma.
In 1995, Olson switched to J&J's Shower to Shower after daily baths. She finally discontinued using the product after hearing about a possible link to ovarian cancer cases in 2015. In May 2016, Olson diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. During her deposition, she recalled repeatedly breathing in J&J products that bore no labels warning of potential risks to cancer.
Olson alleges that J&J is directly responsible for causing her cancer and liable for numerous acts of misconduct, including negligence, breach of warranty, civil conspiracy, and fraud.
In an emailed statement, J&J spokeswoman Kim Montagnino said the company believes the verdict will reverse on appeal.
"This trial suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors - one of the most egregious being the demonstrably false testimony from the plaintiff's central expert, which prompted us to move for a mistrial." She stated, "As the jury prevented from being made aware of falsities in his testimony, we believe these errors will warrant a reversal on appeal."
But according to Judge Manuel Mendez, who is presiding over the trial,
"Johnson & Johnson placed corporate profits and reputation over the health and safety of consumers."
J&J faces more than 14,000 claims that its powders are the cause of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare disease linked to asbestos exposure. The company denies its products ever contained the carcinogen and argues talc doesn't cause life-threatening illnesses. Olson has mesothelioma located in the lining of her lungs, according to court filings.
Johnson & Johnson Hit with $25 million but also Cleared by Another Jury
The company contends William Longo, a scientist who has testified for many plaintiffs in talc cases, lied in earlier trials about where he obtained talc samples in which he found traces of asbestos. Judge Manuel Mendez in Manhattan allowed Longo to testify on Olson’s behalf.
The verdict is the 10th win for talc plaintiffs’ since trials over cancer claims tied to J&J’s talc-based powders began in 2016. J&J has won seven defense verdicts while jurors deadlocked in three other cases. The company also settled in four cases. Some of the plaintiffs’ verdicts overturned while others are still on appeal.
The plaintiffs had also sought to introduce evidence about J&J and its CEO making statements from 2018 and 2019 about the safety of its talcum powder, but New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits said that,
“The jury may not award punitive damages to punish J&J for any harm that J&J inflicted on nonparties.”
He said due process barred that evidence since Olson stopped using J&J’s Baby Powder in 2015.
Johnson & Johnson lost the ovarian cancer trial when a Missouri jury awarded a combined $4.7 billion to 22 women or their surviving family members. Five earlier panels also returned verdicts for ovarian cancer plaintiffs, but the company managed to have three dismissed on technicalities.