A Manhattan jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $300 million in punitive damages to a woman who alleged asbestos-tainted Baby Powder caused her cancer.
Last Friday’s verdict was the first punitive award in the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) court since the 1980s. The same jury had previously granted Donna Olsen $25 million in compensatory damages, bringing the total judgment to $325 million.
“With this verdict, yet another jury has rejected J&J’s misleading claims that its talc was free of asbestos,” one of her attorneys told Bloomberg News. “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 of the asbestos found in talc baby powder.”
Olsen, now 66, suffers from mesothelioma in her lungs, a rare form of cancer tied to asbestos exposure.
Prior to her diagnosis, the former Brooklyn resident had used Baby Powder since the age of 8. She claims that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that the raw talc used to manufacture the popular product could be tainted with asbestos, but failed to warn consumers of this possible risk.
During the trial’s punitive damage phase, the Court permitted Olsen’s attorneys to introduce evidence of Johnson & Johnson’s out-of-state conduct and Baby Powder advertising that ran between 1960s and 1990s. The consumer healthcare giant had sought to limit evidence to its financial situation.
Johnson & Johnson denies its talcum powder products ever contained asbestos or are in any way carcinogenic. As expected, the company promised to appeal, citing what it called “significant legal and evidentiary errors.”
Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits alleging the long-term use of Baby Powder and similar products caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. So far, 20 cases have gone to trial, with plaintiffs winning 10 verdicts, including a $4.7 billion judgement for 22 ovarian cancer plaintiffs in Missouri, a $117 million verdict in New Jersey state court, a $25.75 million win in Los Angeles, and a $29 million verdict in Alameda County, California.
Johnson & Johnson has won 7 talcum powder trials and four have ended with hung juries. The company has also settled four mesothelioma lawsuits.
A number of talcum powder verdicts have been overturned on appeal, in many cases due to jurisdictional issues.