Johnson & Johnson surprised everyone this week, when it agreed to settle lawsuits filed by three women who claim asbestos-tainted talcum powders caused their mesothelioma.
All three talcum powder settlements were announced in quick succession on Wednesday, and included two cases already at trial.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury had actually heard two days of testimony, while an Oklahoma jury had been deliberating for three hours when those talcum powder lawsuits were resolved. One of the Oklahoma jurors told Bloomberg News that his panel appeared to be heading towards a plaintiff’s verdict before their discussions were cut short.
The third case involved a woman with peritoneal mesothelioma, and was scheduled to go to trial in Manhattan Supreme Court on April 19th. Shortly before Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle, the Court had refused to bar a plaintiffs’ expert witness from testifying that he found asbestos and talc in her ovarian and fallopian tissue
While the company did confirm the confidential talcum powder settlements, a spokesperson denied that Johnson & Johnson’s strategy had changed in any way.
“In litigation of every nature there are one-off situations where settlement is a reasonable alternative,” she said in an email to Bloomberg. “We do not have any organized program to settle Johnson’s Baby Powder cases, nor are we planning a settlement program.”
Johnson & Johnson issued a similar statement late last year, when it agreed to settle another talcum powder lawsuit for a reported $1.5 million. That case was also scheduled to go to trial in Manhattan.
Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 13,000 talcum powder lawsuits in courts throughout the United States, all of which blame Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for causing ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
The latest settlements came the same day the company won its third mesothelioma trial in New Jersey’s Middlesex County Superior Court. Johnson & Johnson also won one of the previous trials, while jurors in the other returned a $117 million verdict for the plaintiffs.
Johnson & Johnson latest trial loss came earlier this month, when a jury in California’s Alameda Superior Court awarded $29 million to another mesothelioma plaintiff.
The company won four other mesothelioma trials, while five ended in mistrials.
Johnson & Johnson lost the most recent ovarian cancer trial, which concluded last August when a Missouri jury awarded a combined $4.7 billion to 22 women or their surviving family members. Five earlier juries also returned verdicts for ovarian cancer plaintiffs, but the company managed to have three dismissed on technicalities.