Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Lawsuit Filed Against Multiple Cosmetic Companies

Lawsuit claims numerous talcum powder products used during a Massachusetts woman's life exposed her to asbestos, resulting in a mesothelioma diagnosis in March 2023

A Massachusetts woman has filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against more than 30 different companies, including L’Oreal, Clinique, Mary Kay, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and others, indicating that they sold talcum powder contaminated with asbestos for decades, which directly resulted in her diagnosis with the rare and deadly form of cancer.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Cecelia Sega in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Middlesex County on March 6, alleging that the cosmetics companies and chemical manufacturers knew about the risk of asbestos exposure from talcum powder, but continued to market and sell the products to unsuspecting consumers.

Most talcum powder mesothelioma lawsuits have specifically targeted Johnson & Johnson, which currently faces more than 70,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits. While most of the claims involve women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a smaller number of claims involve users diagnosed with mesothelioma from asbestos in talcum powder. Segal’s complaint, however, is aimed at a variety of talc-based products she used throughout her life.

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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Talcum powder or talc powder may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.

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According to the lawsuit, Segal was exposed to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder both through her own use, and use by family members, as well as through her employment at CVS during the 1970s and 1980s. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the beginning of March 2023, which is commonly identified decades after asbestos exposure, and usually at a very advanced stage by the time it is discovered.

“Plaintiff used the asbestos-contaminated talcum products in an intended, normal, routine, and reasonably foreseeable manner based on the advertising, marketing, and labeling of the asbestos-contaminated talcum products. This use released respirable dust, including asbestos fibers, from the asbestos-contaminated talcum products,” Segal’s lawsuit states. “As a result, Plaintiff inhaled the respirable powder and dust, including asbestos fibers, created from her intended and foreseeable use of the asbestos-contaminated talcum products.”

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive type of cancer that affects the thin tissue lining of the chest and abdomen. It causes roughly 3,200 deaths every year in the United States. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma will live for only 18 to 31 months, and the only known cause of mesothelioma is prior exposure to asbestos.

Following years of denying that its talcum powder contained asbestos, Johnson & Johnson issued a Baby Powder recall in October 2019, acknowledging that that some bottles of the popular products were found to contain levels of chrysotile asbestos, a toxic substance that is known to cause cancer.

Juries have also awarded billions in damages against Johnson & Johnson, after finding that the company withheld important safety information from consumers about the cancer risks from talcum powder.

March 2024 Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update

Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, all talcum powder cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson specifically have been centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey since 2016. However, just before the first jury trials were set to begin, Johnson & Johnson derailed the litigation by pursuing its failed bankruptcy maneuver.

Until August 2023, all proceedings in the litigation were stayed due to the bankruptcy. However, after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael B. Kaplan rejected the second talcum powder bankruptcy filing in July 2023, determining that it was “filed in bad faith” and that a wholly-owned Johnson & Johnson subsidiary did not face actual financial distress requiring bankruptcy protections, progress is getting underway once again for talcum powder lawsuits in 2024.

With the stay now lifted, plaintiffs lawyers and Johnson & Johnson are now preparing a group of ovarian cancer lawsuits for potential jury trials in the federal court system, which may begin sometime in late 2024 or early 2025. In addition, a number of additional individual state court cases are expected to go before juries throughout the country.

While the results of these individual trials will not directly impact other cases, their verdicts are expected to greatly influence the potential talcum powder settlement values that Johnson & Johnson could propose to avoid the need for each individual Baby Powder cancer lawsuit brought by consumers going to trial in the coming years.

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