A New York City jury that recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $25 million to a woman who developed cancer after years of Baby Powder use will return to a Manhattan court room today to consider whether or not she deserves punitive damages.
Plaintiff Donna Olson, now 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. She subsequently developed mesothelioma in her lungs, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
The jury hearing Olsen’s case returned a Baby Powder verdict in her favor on May 21st.
Yesterday, New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits ruled that Olsen may now introduce evidence of Johnson & Johnson’s out-of-state conduct and Baby Powder advertising that ran between 1960s and 1990s.
Johnson & Johnson had sought to limit evidence to its financials, but Lebovits disagreed.
“To be sure, the parties should avoid lengthy and potentially duplication presentations of evidence on punitive damages at Phase II here, particularly in view of the long duration of Phase I,” he said. “But the need judiciously to streamline the parties’ Phase II presentations does not require wholesale preclusion of new evidence beyond financial condition.”
Judge Lebovits did reject Olsen’s request to admit evidence of Johnson & Johnson’s conduct after 2015, since she stopped using Baby Powder that year.
“The jury may not award punitive damages to punish J&J for any harm that J&J inflicted on nonparties,” Lebovits said.
Last week’s Baby Powder verdict was the 10th win for plaintiffs in a nationwide litigation that now includes more than 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits alleging the long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s products caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.
Seven juries have returned verdicts for Johnson & Johnson, and the company has settled four cases during trial or just before trials were to commence.
Three other Johnson & Johnson talcum powder trials have ended with hung juries.
More than a dozen talcum powder lawsuits could head to trial over the next five months, mostly in California.