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In another blow over the failure to warn about the risks associated with talcum powder exposure, a California jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson t pay $25.7 million in damages to a woman who developed mesothelioma following years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder.
The case involved a lawsuit filed by 68 year old Joanne Anderson, who was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2016. Mesothelioma is linked to exposure to asbestos, and the lawsuit alleged that she developed the disease after breathing microscopic asbestos fibers when applying Johnson’s Baby Powder for years. Anderson claimed that she regularly used the talcum powder while bowling, and used it on her children when they were babies.
Following a three and a half week trial, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury determined this week that Anderson should be paid $21.7 million in compensatory damages, and that Johnson & Johnson also owe an additional $4 million in punitive damages designed to punish the company for recklessly withholding critical safety information from consumers.
The company would only be required to pay two-thirds of the verdict, as the jury determined that some of her exposure to talcum powder or asbestos came from other sources. Imerys Talc was originally also a defendant, but was dismissed from the lawsuit.
While thousands of women nationwide are pursuing Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits over the development of ovarian cancer associated with applying the talc powder around the genitals, the case brought by Anderson is part of a growing litigation over injuries associated with asbestos contained in the products.
The verdict comes just a month after 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 similar 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.
Mesothelioma is a rare and particularly life-threatening form of cancer, which is often at a very advanced stage when a diagnosis is made, resulting in a very short life-expectancy.
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.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Claims
In addition to concerns over the talc powder mesothelioma risk, Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 6,000 ovarian cancer lawsuits brought by women nationwide, and several state court trials in recent years have resulted in multi-million dollar damage awards over failure to warn about the risks associated with use of talcum powder by adult women for “feminine hygiene”.
The lawsuits allege that talc particles may migrate through the vagina to the ovaries, resulting in the development of ovarian cancer following years of exposure. According to evidence introduced in prior trials, Johnson & Johnson has known about these risks associated with their baby powder for decades, yet continued to market talcum powder to adult women and introduced Shower-to-Shower powder for that specific market.
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.