Johnson & Johnson was hit with a massive verdict in another Baby Powder lawsuit yesterday, when a California jury awarded $29 million to a woman who claims asbestos-tainted talc caused her terminal cancer.
The company’s shares fell some 2% in premarket trading this morning, as investors worried that the massive talcum powder litigation will eventually hurt the company’s bottom line.
Teresa Leavitt regularly used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder in the 1960s and 1970s, and received a mesothelioma diagnosis in 2017. The deadly cancer is associated with asbestos exposure.
According to her Baby Powder lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson was allegedly aware that its raw talc might be tainted with asbestos. However, the company concealed this information for decades to safeguard the profits derived from its popular talcum powder franchises.
Leavitt’s case went to trial on January 7th in Alameda County Superior Court.
The jury deliberated for two days before finding that Baby Powder was a “substantial contributing factor” to her cancer. They awarded Leavitt and her husband $29.4 million in compensatory damages, but declined to assess any punitive damage.
“Yet another jury has rejected J&J’s misleading claims that its talc was free of asbestos,” said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “The internal J&J documents that the jury saw, once more laid bare the shocking truth of decades of cover-up, deception and concealment by J&J.”
Johnson & Johnson is a defendant in over 13,000 talcum powder lawsuits currently pending in courts throughout the United States.
Leavitt’s verdict was the most recent in about dozen nationwide involving Baby Powder and mesothelioma. Two juries found for mesothelioma plaintiffs in New Jersey and California last year, while three others found for Johnson & Johnson. The remaining cases ended in mistrials.
Another talcum powder mesothelioma case is currently at trial in New Jersey.
Other Baby Powder lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson’s talc caused ovarian cancer. The most recent ovarian cancer trial ended in August, when a Missouri jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 plaintiffs. A judge upheld that verdict in December.
Leavitt’s Baby Powder lawsuit was the first heard by a jury since Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson’s raw-talc and finished powders have periodically tested positive for small amounts asbestos since the early 1970s.
While this concerned Johnson & Johnson executives, they kept the findings from the public to protect the company’s “caring” image. They also worked to curtail efforts to regulate talc in cosmetics and stymie research into its health effects.
Johnson & Johnson disputed the Reuters report and denies that its talcum powders cause cancer. On Wednesday, the company also promised to appeal the latest Baby Powder lawsuit verdict.