Baby Powder From Decades Ago Caused Cancer, California Jury Finds

Andrew Cummings
March 16, 2019

Two previous cases have led to victories against the conglomerate, including a July 2018 multi-plaintiff ovarian cancer case that awarded $4.69 billion in damages to the victims.

The ruling sets an obvious precedent for the pharma and consumer goods giant as it faces thousands of lawsuits from other plaintiffs for similar reasons.

A Superior Court jury in Oakland found the world's largest health care company mainly liable for Teresa Leavitt's mesothelioma. The jury decided against awarding punitive damages, which are created to punish the defendants - in this case Johnson & Johnson and the other companies involved in making the talcum powder - for reckless or negligent behavior.

In its latest trial-court loss, a jury in California on Wednesday ordered J&J to pay $29 million to a woman who claimed her routine use of J&J's talc caused her mesothelioma, according to reports.


The company said it would appeal, citing "serious procedural and evidentiary errors" during the trial, saying lawyers for the woman had fundamentally failed to show its baby powder contains asbestos.

J&J denies that its talc powder contains asbestos or is responsible for health problems. In December past year, the company reiterated the safety of its products as a slew of drug regulators around the world such as the US FDA and India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) analysed samples of J&J products.

"Hundreds of internal J&J documents showed the truth that it has been hiding for years".

J&J has appealed all of the plaintiff verdicts, and the company said it is confident the verdicts would be overturned on appeal.


In December, Reuters published an in-depth investigation that showed Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder occasionally tested positive for small amounts of asbestos and covered up the findings. A company executive in the 1970s warned that J&J's talc mines might not be free of asbestos.

While asbestos is classified as a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and other groups, the ACS says the science on whether talcum powder causes cancer is more ambiguous.

The US Food and Drug Administration had commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including Johnson & Johnson's, from 2009 to 2010.

In December, the New York Times reported that for years, Johnson & Johnson executives anxious that their talc-based products would one day be linked to asbestos. After the judge refused, that panel ordered J&J to pay a total of $27.5 million in damages to a woman who sued the company over her cancer.


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