Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $2 Billion in Damages
Johnson & Johnson was recently ordered to pay $2.1 billion in damages to women with ovarian cancer that blame it on their talcum powder use. Thousands of women have sued Johnson and Johnson saying they were never warned of the risks involved with using baby powder. Other lawsuits are still being brought against the company and its talc-based products. Company spokespeople say the company is reviewing the ruling made by the Supreme Court of Missouri. They also say the trial was flawed and the company will continue to defend its products, maintaining that the company’s talc is safe and asbestos free. The result of all these lawsuits is the company is no longer selling talc-based baby powder in the United States.
Six plaintiffs died before the trial even started and five women have died since then. Citing the dangers of the product, the plaintiffs’ attorney urged people to throw away any baby powder they may have in their homes. The appellate court decided against Johnson and Johnson, basing the decision on internal memos discussing the products containing asbestos. This is problematic because the product was considered a trust mark, meaning the company sold the baby powder to maintain a wholesome image even while knowing the product contained a carcinogen. The court articulated that the company was motivated by profits and disregarded the safety of consumers because it knew the dangers of the baby powder and continued to sell it.
Actual damages awarded by the court totaled $500 million while $1.62 billion was awarded for punitive damages. This is a reduction from the $550 in actual damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages before claims by some plaintiffs were dismissed.
Baby powder has always been marketed as a gentle and safe product for babies, but the main purchasers of the product have always been women to use for themselves. They primarily use the talc-based powder, but after concerns that talc contained small levels of asbestos, Johnson & Johnson responded by making an alternative with cornstarch. Other cosmetic products that use talc include lipstick, eye shadow, blush, and foundation. Earlier this year, cosmetics companies have had to recall their products over asbestos concerns.
Talc and asbestos develop in very similar ways, so they can often be found alongside each other. When talc is mined, asbestos then gets in the talc and cannot be removed. Johnson & Johnson worried about asbestos contamination in their talc for years, but they continued to sell the product. Earlier this year, the company had to recall 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the FDA found trace amounts of the carcinogen in the product. Johnson & Johnson stated that their own tests showed no asbestos in the product.
Like Johnson & Johnson, asbestos companies knew for years that asbestos is a carcinogen and continued to allow their workers to be exposed. If you were exposed to asbestos and now have mesothelioma or lung cancer, contact us today to see if you could be owed compensation. Our attorneys will do whatever they can to help you. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Roni Caryn Rabin, “Women With Cancer Awarded Billions in Baby Powder Suit” The New York Times (June 23, 2020). [Link]