Johnson & Johnson: 41 States Investigating Talcum Powder Marketing Practices

Published on May 6, 2020 by Laurie Villanueva

Johnson & Johnson continues to face scrutiny over Baby Powder and other popular talc-based powders.

According to the company’s most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, at least 41 states have joined forces to investigate Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder marketing practices.

“At this time, the multi-state group has not asserted any claims against the Company, nor has the multi-state group sought any documents or other information,” the filing noted.

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Litigation

The multi-state probe is just the latest legal entanglement involving Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products.

In fact, more than 18,700 plaintiffs across the United States have filed talcum powder lawsuits alleging the Johnson & Johnson failed to warn that Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower were tainted with asbestos and could contribute to the development of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. While the company has successfully defended a number of those claims at trial, about half of the juries convened so far have ruled for plaintiffs, including a $4.7 billion verdict awarded to 22 talcum powder ovarian cancer plaintiffs in July 2018.

Since December 2018, Johnson & Johnson has reached confidential talcum powder settlements in a handful of mesothelioma cases that were already at trial or about to go to trial in Connecticut, New York, California and Oklahoma. But the company has repeatedly characterized those agreements as unique situations and has not indicated any desire to enter into a formal program to settle the growing talcum powder litigation.

Most recently, Johnson & Johnson moved to exclude plaintiffs’ expert testimony in more than 16,000 talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits that have been centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. However, the judge overseeing that proceeding denied the company’s motion and will allow the experts to testify, subject to certain limitations.

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder and Asbestos

Johnson & Johnson has always maintained that the raw talc used in Baby Powder and its other popular body powders is asbestos free. But in December 2018, a Reuters investigation revealed that the company’s talc – as well as its finished powders – had periodically tested positive for traces of asbestos since the 1970s. Internal documents reviewed by Reuters also indicated that company officials declined to inform regulators or consumers out of concern that any such a disclosure would undermine Johnson & Johnson’s “caring” image.

Last fall, testing conducted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration detected “subtraces” of asbestos in a single container of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, resulting in a recall of more than 33,000 bottles. However, Johnson & Johnson insists that its own testing of the same bottle found the powder to be asbestos-free.

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