Johnson & Johnson has made grave attempts to deny its talcum powder products contain asbestos. However, there have been a handful of verdicts in recent years that have caused the company to pay out billions of dollars in many talcum powder lawsuits.
Talcum powder is a fine, silicate material found in talc mines. It’s attractive properties in baby care, household, and cosmetic use are that it helps prevent rashes and irritation by wicking away moisture. However, talc has incredibly similar properties to asbestos and the two are often found together in underground mineral deposits.
The potential presence of asbestos can cause devastating health complications such as mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Just this year, an Oakland jury awarded a woman with mesothelioma a $30 million verdict for damages caused by using talcum-based baby powder for much of her life.
On the heels of that verdict, J&J agreed to a series of confidential deals with three other women on March 27. The unnamed women all claimed they contracted mesothelioma from using the company’s baby powder. The trials had already begun in Oklahoma and California with one set to begin in New York.
Some believe it’s not surprising the cases were settled out of court because they are so high profile; the trials might reveal information to the public that could further damage the companies reputation.
Jean Eggen, a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, said to Law360 this approach reminded her of the controversy during battles with tobacco companies. “I tend to think of the company the way I thought of the tobacco companies back in the day, before they settled anything,” she said.
“..they won most of the cases. But when they started losing some of the cases, they were more willing to open up and settle.” She indicated J&J’s willingness to settle out of court is unique to the facts of each case because there are still others that are being met in court.
For instance, J&J won a month-long talc case in New Jersey recently the jury only deliberated on for an hour and found baby powder did not cause a man’s mesothelioma. The company brazenly emphasized the results to the public with a statement that said:
“We do not have any organized program to settle Johnson’s Baby Powder cases, nor are we planning a settlement program. Rather, we will continue to vigorously defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the courtroom.”
The media coverage of high profile cases seems to have started affecting J&J’s reputation. Just last year, 22 women won a trial against J&J for causing mesothelioma and were collectively awarded a $4 billion verdict; a newsworthy number.
The company is facing some shareholder litigation over its handling of talcum powder lawsuits, as well as a drop in stock prices. An internal document from J&J indicating the company knew there was asbestos in its talc was made public after one of the lawsuits. This has increased pressure to keep the trials out of the public eye.
During a regulatory filing, the company revealed the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and U.S. Sent. Patty Murray, had issued subpoenas seeking asbestos allegations records.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them settle the mesothelioma cases because I think they’ve got a political problem there,” said James Morris of the Morris Law Firm. “I don’t think it’s just a product liability problem.”
J&J is facing lawsuits that its baby powder products have cause ovarian cancer as well. Though the studies linking the two are still tightly fought by J&J, those in regards to asbestos are well-linked at this point, enough to cause the company to settle out of court.
The numbers of the private settlements have not been disclosed. However, an attorney for the Oklahoma plaintiff said they were “super happy” with the results.
Contact a Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma and you were a user of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, you are not alone. To learn how our talcum powder lawyers can help you and your family, please contact us for a Free Case Evaluation. We would be honored to speak with you and will respond promptly to every inquiry we receive.