Johnson & Johnson has been under criticism for years due to claims that their talc powder products may result in asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma. However, a jury in New Jersey recently found J&J not liable in a case where talc allegedly caused a victim’s mesothelioma.
Rosalind Henry sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming asbestos is present in the company’s baby powder and other talc products, and that asbestos was responsible for her mesothelioma diagnosis. J&J maintained its stance that its products do not contain asbestos of any kind and the jury agreed.
“We have deep sympathy for anyone diagnosed with any form of cancer and appreciate that people are looking for answers. However, Johnson’s baby powder is not the cause of this disease,” said a statement from Johnson & Johnson.
Previous Lawsuits Against Johnson & Johnson
The verdict was disappointing to many, as claims of asbestos in J&J’s talc powder products is a relatively new occurrence. The precedent is still being set, but the first few cases seemed promising. Earlier this year, J&J lost two mesothelioma-related cases with multi-million dollar awards to victims.
Back in May, a woman named Joanne Anderson was awarded $25.7 million in her mesothelioma lawsuit against J&J and other defendants. Joanne claims her mesothelioma is the result of using J&J’s baby powder. A month before, a New Jersey jury found J&J responsible for causing a man’s cancer and awarded the victim and his wife $117 million in damages.
But these are just a few of thousands of legal battles fought by Johnson & Johnson in recent years. Each case is unique, and the results have been unpredictable and inconsistent as a result.
Female Plaintiffs Awarded Compensation
Back in July, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.69 billion in damages to 22 female plaintiffs with ovarian cancer. Those patients claimed that using J&J talc powder on a regular basis had contributed to their ovarian cancer diagnosis later in life. While J&J immediately shared its intention to appeal the decision, many had hoped a new precedent was set.
Johnson & Johnson has a history of ovarian cancer lawsuits over its talc products and uses its skilled legal team to defeat victims whenever possible. Over 9000 women have sued J&J for health concerns related to talc powder, and J&J has appealed every single decision found in their favor—including the two recent mesothelioma victories. J&J tends to be victorious in these appeals.
“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed, and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” said J&J, in response to the most recent case.
Surmounting Costs for Johnson & Johnson
However, that doesn’t mean J&J is completely unscathed in these cases. While the courts seem to be in favor of the defendant overall, the cost to the company is high. J&J’s litigations cost the company $806 million in 2016 and $2.7 billion in legal expenses in 2017, a number which seems to be rising.
But J&J generates over $6 billion in revenue from its line of skin care and baby products, resulting in significant profits even with the ongoing lawsuits.
Mixed Evidence Over Talc Dangers
Talc is used extensively, which is one of the significant concerns with it potentially containing asbestos or asbestos-like materials. Talc is often applied to women and babies due to its natural ability to absorb moisture and prevent moisture-related issues. Concerns over the health impacts of talc were first raised in the 1970s and reiterated in the 1980s, but J&J has always claimed their talc products are safe for cosmetic use.
To complicate matters, research linking talc powder and products to health conditions like ovarian cancer and mesothelioma isn’t decisive.
J&J has consistently denied claims that their talc contains asbestos and the results of studies have been mixed, making it difficult for people to defeat J&J’s colossal legal team in court. Despite the unclear research results, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared talc as “possibly carcinogenic” if used in the genital area.