Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $750 Million in Punitive Damages in Talcum Powder Cancer Trial
Written by Faith Anderson on April 20, 2020
In yet another massive loss for Johnson & Johnson, the baby powder manufacturer was ordered by a New Jersey state jury in February to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four plaintiffs who allege that the company’s Baby Powder product caused them to develop cancer. The damage award, which was later reduced to $186 million due to state laws limiting punitive damages in tort cases, was awarded on top on the $37.2 million in compensatory damages the plaintiffs received during an earlier phase of the trial in September. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer after using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower Body Powder, you may have grounds to file a talcum powder cancer lawsuit against the manufacturer. Contact our consumer advocates at Consumer Justice Foundation today to discuss your legal rights.
Talcum Powder Cancer Risk
Talcum powder is made from talc, a naturally occurring silicate mineral. As a powder, talc is naturally absorbed by the skin and can help prevent rashes and control odor and moisture, which makes the mineral useful for many purposes, including as a baby powder and body powder. Johnson & Johnson talc-based powders have been a family staple for generations and most users trusted that the product was safe. Because of its naturally absorbent properties, many women used J&J talcum powder regularly for their personal hygiene, to absorb moisture and eliminate odors in the genital area. Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests that women who use talcum powder products in the genital area for feminine hygiene purposes may face a greater risk of ovarian cancer. Based on dozens of studies involving thousands of women, the risk of ovarian cancer is estimated to be 30% higher for women who have used talcum powder, compared to women who have not.
Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits Pending Against J&J
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 16,000 product liability lawsuits filed in courts across the country, each of which includes similar allegations that the company negligently manufactured and sold talcum powder products contaminated with asbestos and failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential for the tainted powders to cause cancer. The majority of the lawsuits pending against J&J were filed on behalf of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following years of talcum powder use for feminine hygiene purposes. However, a growing number of legal claims involve talcum powder users who were diagnosed with mesothelioma allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos. The four plaintiffs in the New Jersey state trial sought compensation from Johnson & Johnson for their individual mesothelioma diagnoses.
J&J Plans to Appeal Jury Verdicts
J&J said in a statement that it would be appealing both phases of the New Jersey talcum powder cancer trial, citing “numerous legal errors that subjected the jury to irrelevant information and prevented them from hearing meaningful evidence.” The company has repeatedly denied that its talcum powder products cause cancer, claiming that numerous studies and tests conducted worldwide have proven that the company’s talc-based powders are safe and asbestos-free. In December 2018, however, Reuters published a special report which showed that J&J knew for decades that its talcum powder was sometimes tainted with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and deliberately withheld that information from the public.
Baby Powder Recalled Due to Asbestos Contamination
In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson was forced to recall a batch of its Baby Powder after the company discovered small amounts of asbestos in the product. In a statement regarding the talcum powder recall, J&J said that the recall was issued “out of an abundance of caution,” nothing that only “sub-trace levels” of chrysotile asbestos were found in a single bottle purchased from an online retailer. Asbestos is a material composed of naturally occurring fibrous minerals found in rock and soil. Unfortunately, because asbestos is often naturally found near talc in the earth, talc can easily become contaminated with asbestos while being mined. According to a report published by the World Health Organization, “exposure to asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary, mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings) and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).”
What to Do if You Have Been Harmed by Talcum Powder
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, classifies talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans,” meaning it can cause cancer. Additionally, the IARC classifies the use of talc-based body powders on the genital area as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” If you regularly used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower Body Powder for feminine hygiene purposes or other uses and you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma or another type of cancer, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. Our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation are committed to protecting the rights of consumers who have been harmed by defective consumer products and we can help put you in touch with an attorney who has experience handling talcum powder cancer claims.