Two recent court cases involving Johnson & Johnson’s (J & J) baby powder have resulted in the awarding of damages to plaintiffs suffering from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that generally affects certain cells lining the lungs and abdomen. The cancer is often caused by asbestos exposure and rarely appears without cause.
During May 2018, jurors in California state court awarded a 68-year-old woman compensatory damages of $21.7 million for asbestos-related mesothelioma that she claims resulted from extremely heavy usage (two bottles a month) of J & J’s powder over decades. Earlier, in April 2018, New Jersey jurors in the company’s corporate hometown of New Brunswick found J & J liable for $117 million in damages. A 56-year-old man claimed that his asbestos-related mesothelioma was due to daily usage of the company’s talcum powder products since his birth in 1972.
These two cases are game-changers when it comes to the dangers of talcum powder and cancer risk. Previous cases have focused on ovarian cancer and have not involved claims of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders.
What is Mesothelioma?
The cancer known as mesothelioma usually results from workplace exposure to asbestos that occurs over many years. The most common form is pleural, affecting lung tissue. Another form of mesothelioma is peritoneal, or impacting abdominal tissues. More rare forms involve the tissues surrounding the heart and testicles, but nearly all cases of “meso” involve some exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is extremely toxic to human beings and was banned from usage in the Seventies.
Asbestos and Talcum Powder
What does asbestos have to do with talcum powder? The mineral talc, which is used to make baby and body powders feel silky-smooth, is mined, often appearing side-by-side with naturally-occurring asbestos. While talc and asbestos are two different substances, the risk of cross-contamination always exists.
During the California trial, jurors were told that baby powder bottles used by the woman with mesothelioma tested positive for asbestos. In the New Jersey case, lawyers for the plaintiff claimed that internal Johnson & Johnson documents showed that the company believed their powders contained asbestos, but hid the fact from the public. During the trial, the jury saw the documents in question. Lawyers for J & J claimed that independent testing never turned up any hint of asbestos in their talcum powders.
What Might Happen Going Forward?
Lawyers in the NJ case say they will use the J & J documents in future cases involving ovarian cancer to allege that the cancer was caused by asbestos contamination. While the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos is well-established, the link between asbestos and ovarian cancer is less so. Some studies have found no relationship at all.
Still, the documents appear to show asbestos contamination in the talcum powders. Asbestos, with its connection to mesothelioma, has given new life to cases brought against Johnson & Johnson, because previous cases did not touch on asbestos contamination. Talc’s relationship with asbestos could pave the way for new ovarian cancer cases linked to use of talcum powder, not to mention mesothelioma cases in long-term powder users.
Of the six Johnson & Johnson ovarian cancer cases resolved so far, juries have found the company liable in five of them. However, a Missouri appellate court threw out one verdict, and a California judge axed another one.
All cases that Johnson & Johnson has lost are under appeal by the company.
Talk to Us. We’re Listening to You.
The only way that we can hold the corporations who manufacture the baby powder and talcum powder products responsible for cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma is to take them to court. When it comes to faulty products, individuals in Maryland—and in all fifty states—that are harmed by such items have the right to make a claim against the manufacturer.
If you or a family member have suffered from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma and have been or currently are a long-time user of talcum powder, call Baltimore product injury attorney Steve Heisler. At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we know the amount of emotional trauma and expense from medical care that can arise when you suffer from cancer. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing product liability claims, so you should not delay. Call Steve today for a free initial consultation, or use our confidential online form.