Johnson & Johnson Hit with $29 Million Verdict in Baby Powder Cancer Case

          Last week, a jury in Alameda County, CA ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $29 million in damages to a woman who claimed that asbestos in its talc-based products had caused her cancer.   Plaintiff, Teresa Leavitt, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer solely related to exposure to asbestos, which plaintiff claims she was exposed after using Johnson & Johnson talc products for more than 30 years. More than 13,000 plaintiffs have sued Johnson & Johnson claiming their cancers were caused by talc products manufactured by the Johnson company and alleging that Johnson & Johnson has, since the early 1900s, “possessed medical and scientific data that raised concerns regarding the presence of asbestos in talcum powder and that demonstrated the existence of health hazards to those exposed to asbestos-containing talcum powder products.” In July, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

          Johnson & Johnson’s powder lines have been a cash cow for the company for years generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues.  In fact, the company preyed on the insecurities of women and feminine hygiene, focusing on ethnic women, overweight women and teenagers. Internal marketing documents show how the company tried to increase sales by targeting “overweight women living in hot climates during the summer months."  The company also targeted African-American and Hispanic women and teenage girls to promote talc as an essential feminine hygiene product, all while the company know of concerns that its talc-based products may cause ovarian cancer.  Who can forget the iconic jingle, “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away…have you had your sprinkle today?”  for its Shower to Shower powder.

          The iconic baby powder created an image of a caring company that mothers and families could trust so imagine the shock of a report published by Reuters in December, 2018, that revealed the Johnson & Johnson had been aware for decades that its talcum powder was at times contaminated with asbestos. The Reuters report also revealed that:

          * Lab reports as early as 1957 showed talc from Johnson & Johnson’s Italian supplier had been contaminated with asbestos.

          * Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and powders continued to test positive on occasion for small amounts of asbestos from 1971 through 2003.

          * In the early 1970s, Johnson & Johnson urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to adopt a testing method for talc that would have allowed it to contain an asbestos level of up to 1 percent, which was 10 times the allowable amount the FDA had proposed.  After the FDA agency rejected the idea, Johnson & Johnson promoted self-policing by an industry group.  To this day, the FDA does not limit asbestos levels in cosmetic talc, and the industry monitors itself.

         

          Although the FDA has taking somewhat of a ‘hands off’ approach stating that, “it continues to investigate and monitor reports of asbestos contamination in certain cosmetic products,” the DOJ and SEC may be getting involved.  Johnson & Johnson admitted that it recently received subpoenas from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission related to litigation involving alleged asbestos contamination in its Baby Powder line of products.  The company steadfastly stand by its products and claims that, “decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free and does not cause cancer.” The last two juries have whole-heartedly disagreed.

          If you or a loved one has questions regarding talc-based cancers, contact the attorneys at Ennis & Ennis for a free confidential consultation at 1-800-856-6405, Holly@Ennislaw.com or visit us online at www.Ennislaw.com.


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