Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $1.5 million to a New York woman who says her long-term use of Baby Powder caused a deadly form of cancer.
According to a complaint filed in New York City’s Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL), plaintiff Ana Zoas, 78, had used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for most of her life prior to her 2017 mesothelioma diagnosis.
Although Zoas was a long-term smoker and was previously diagnosed with throat cancer, she asserted that asbestos was never present in her workplace. Among other things, she claimed Johnson & Johnson knew the raw talc used in Baby Powder might contain asbestos particles, but concealed that information from the public to protect sales of the brand.
Zoas’s talcum powder lawsuit was initially slated to go to trial in December, but was postponed until January because of a juror shortage.
On November 26th, the judge overseeing the case rejected Johnson & Johnson’s motion for dismissal. Ominously, he warned that Zoas could be entitled to punitive damages because of the company’s “continued insistence there is no asbestos in talc.”
According to Forbes, Johnson & Johnson agreed to the talcum powder settlement on December 18th, just two weeks before jury selection was about to begin.
Overall, December was not a good month for Johnson & Johnson on the talc-asbestos front.
In fact, just days before the New York talcum powder settlement made news, a Reuters investigation revealed that company officials likely knew for decades that asbestos particles could be lurking in Baby Powder.
More than 11, 000 plaintiffs have filed similar talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson in courts throughout the country. However, the company maintains that the New York mesothelioma settlement is a “one-off” and has vowed to vigorously defend the remaining claims.
It will have its chance soon enough, as four more talc-asbestos lawsuits are set for trial in NYCAL.
According to Forbes, NYCAL is known for rules that favor plaintiffs. Among other things, it applies the so-called Frye Rule to scientific evidence, which allows expert witnesses to testify as long as their methods are “generally accepted” in the scientific community.
By contrast, federal courts and most state courts follow the Daubert Rule, which excludes experts whose conclusions aren’t peer-reviewed or replicable by others.
So far, 10 mesothelioma lawsuits involving Baby Powder and other Johnson & Johnson talcum powders have gone to trial in courts throughout the United States.
Last month, a Missouri judge upheld a $4.7 billion verdict awarded earlier this year to 22 plaintiffs alleging asbestos-tainted Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer.
Asbestos plaintiffs also won two recent mesothelioma trials, including a California case that concluded in May with a $25 million verdict. A month earlier, a New Jersey jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $117 million to another mesothelioma plaintiff.
Nationwide, three juries have returned verdicts for Johnson & Johnson, while mistrials have been declared in four asbestos cases.
The majority of talcum powder lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, however, do not involve claims of asbestos tainted-talc. Instead, plaintiffs allege that the regular and repeated use of Baby Powder for feminine hygiene is enough to cause ovarian cancer.
So far, verdicts in these ovarian cancer cases have been mixed. Although four plaintiffs were initially awarded damages ranging from $55 million to $417 million, Johnson & Johnson managed to have two verdicts dismissed.