Four plaintiffs who claim Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder caused their mesothelioma were awarded $37.3 million on Wednesday, after a New Jersey jury found that the popular product was tainted with asbestos and defective as sold.
According to CVN.com, the six-member panel also ruled that exposure to Baby Powder substantially caused the plaintiffs’ cancer.
The talcum powder verdict followed more than two months of testimony, and came after Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi took the unusual step of striking Johnson & Johnson’s entire closing argument for derogatory remarks about opposing counsel. Those remarks apparently included calling the plaintiffs’ attorneys “sinister” and accusing them of fabricating evidence.
The jury began deliberations last Friday, and ultimately awarded $14.7 million in compensatory damages to a North Carolina woman who used Baby Powder from infancy until the age of 21. Now 41, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma three years ago and is considered terminal.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay the remaining plaintiffs $7.25 million, $9.45 million, and $5.9 million in compensatory damages.
Unfortunately for the company, those awards could become significantly larger, as the jury must still address the question of punitive damages. A date for that phase of the trial will be set sometime later this fall.
Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of talcum powder lawsuits involving ovarian cancer and mesothelioma in courts across the United States. Plaintiffs claim that the company has known since the 1970s that its raw talc might be tainted with asbestos, but failed to warn consumers about the possible risk of cancer.
A dozen other juries have found for plaintiffs since claims began going to trial in February 2016, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $5 billion over the past three years. However, the company has had some success appealing those talcum powder verdicts.
While Johnson & Johnson vehemently denies that its talc-based powders ever contained asbestos or caused cancer, the company has agreed to settle four other mesothelioma lawsuits since last December.