A jury in New York City has awarded $25 million to a woman who claimed asbestos-tainted Baby Powder caused her cancer.
Yesterday’s talcum powder verdict only includes compensatory damages. The same jury will convene next week to consider whether Johnson & Johnson and other defendants in the case deserve to be assessed punitive damages.
According to her complaint, Donna Olson, 66, began using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder when she was just 8-years-old and continued to do so after she married in 1984. The former Manhattan resident claims that she inhaled asbestos particles from clouds of talc created by her repeated applications.
Olsen subsequently developed mesothelioma in her lungs, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits nationwide that blame Baby Powder and other popular brands for causing mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. The company has a mixed record at trial, and yesterday’s talcum powder verdict in New York marked the 10th win for plaintiffs.
Johnson & Johnson has also settled four talc mesothelioma lawsuits since last December, including two others that were scheduled to go to trial in New York City.
The company has also won seven cases. In fact, Johnson & Johnson’s most recent win came just hours after the New York talcum powder verdict was announced, when a South Carolina jury cleared the company of liability for another woman’s mesothelioma.
Three other Johnson & Johnson talcum powder trials have ended with hung juries.
Johnson & Johnson denies that its talc-based powders contain asbestos or are in any way carcinogenic.
Last December, however, Reuters reported that the company’s raw-talc and finished powders had periodically tested positive for trace amounts asbestos since the early 1970s. Internal documents suggested the occasional asbestos findings worried many at Johnson & Johnson. But rather than warn the public or notify regulators, they worked aggressively to undermine efforts to regulate talc in consumer products and research into its possible health effects.
Reuters published a follow-up report in April, this time highlighting internal documents that suggested Johnson & Johnson shifted its talcum powder marketing focus to African-American, Hispanic, and overweight women in 2006.
That same year, the World Health Organization declared talc-based powders “possibly carcinogenic” when applied to the female genitals. Shortly after that, Luzenac America Inc., one of the company’s talc suppliers, began including a cancer warning on customer shipments. However, Johnson & Johnson continued to withhold this information from the public.