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In the middle of a California trial filed over the development of mesothelioma cancer from Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, Imerys Talc has reached a settlement agreement to resolve portions of the claim over their role as a supplier for Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products.
The talc settlement is at least the second agreement reached by Imerys Talc to resolve lawsuits, after the company decided to settle claims just before an ovarian cancer trial involving 22 women went before a jury in June 2018. That left Johnson & Johnson as the only remaining defendant in the case, which ended with a jury finding that the company should be required to pay $4.7 billion in damages.
Details of this latest agreement have not been disclosed, but the deal came after several weeks of testimony, and right before the case brought by Carolyn Weirick was set to go to the jury.
Weirick’s lawsuit claims that talcum powder products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson contained asbestos, resulting in her development of mesothelioma cancer as a result of asbestos exposure. Imerys Talc supplied the talc ingredients to Johnson & Johnson.
Following the settlement, Johnson & Johnson has requested a mistrial, but the presiding judge has refused. As of Thursday morning, the jury was still in deliberations.
Imerys Talc and Johnson & Johnson face thousands of other Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits involving allegations that consumers were not adequately warned about the risk of cancer.
Most of the cases involve women who developed ovarian cancer following years of applying the talc powder around their genitals for “feminine hygiene” purposes. However, a number of cases raise allegations similar to those presented by Weirick, that asbestos particles contained in the powder were inhaled and resulted in the development of the rare and often fatal form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma.
In May, another California jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $25.7 million in a similar talc mesothelioma case. In April, a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million to a man diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposure from talcum powder. That verdict included $80 million in punitive damages.
In December, a talc powder case went to trial in California, resulted in a jury award of $17.57 million in compensatory damages and $4.6 million in punitive damages, for the family of man who died of mesothelioma in 2016, after years of exposure to talc.
A number of studies published in recent years have highlighted the link between talc powder and mesothelioma, but questions about the risk were first raised by health officials in Baltimore as early as 1972.
In October 2014, a study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health identified a potential link between an unnamed, but popular, brand of talc powder and asbestos exposure, suggesting that use of the product may have caused the death of at least one unidentified woman due to mesothelioma.
In April 2016, Colgate-Palmolive was ordered to pay $1.4 million to a woman diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to Cashmere Bouquet talc powder. Colgate-Palmolive reached an undisclosed settlement in November over another talcum powder asbestos claim.
While Johnson & Johnson is pursuing appeals in each of the cases that resulted in a verdict, and is refusing to negotiate talcum powder settlements, some analysts suggest that the recent verdicts may be a sign of future problems for the manufacturer, due to signs that juries find Johnson & Johnson’s trial defense lacking in credibility.