THE UNITED STATES – June 25, 2020 – According to an online news story published on NYTimes.com, a Missouri appellate court upheld an award of over $2 billion in damages against Johnson & Johnson in a talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged the Johnson & Johnson was aware that their talc baby powder contained asbestos, a known carcinogen. The original damages award was a record of $4.69 billion in punitive and compensatory damages. The $4.69 billion award was awarded to the women back in July 2018.
Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of talc cancer lawsuits from women who maintain Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products contained the dangerous carcinogen asbestos. Johnson & Johnson stated last month that the company would cease selling talc baby powder in North America, but the company would continue to sell their talc-based products in other countries. A Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman stated that the company defends its talcum powder products as safe. The company spokeswoman announced the company would seek additional review of this ruling by the Supreme Court of Missouri. Johnson & Johnson’s spokeswoman stated, “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos-free and does not cause cancer.”
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs is warning users of talcum products to throw away all baby powder products containing talcum powder. Six plaintiffs in the talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit tragically passed away before the ovarian cancer trials began. According to the attorney, an additional five women died after the jury trial ended back in 2018.
According to the news report, the appellate court’s decision stated that Johnson & Johnson’s internal corporate records, dating as far back as the 1960s, showed that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products contained a carcinogenic mineral called asbestos and the mineral was known to be dangerous. Johnson & Johnson’s internal records called its talc products, “the company trust-mark,” “a golden egg,” and “a sacred cow.”
The court stated in its decision that, “A reasonable inference from all this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer.” The Missouri appellate court also stated that the plaintiffs “showed clear and convincing evidence defendants engaged in conduct that was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference.” The Missouri appellate court reduced the total damages award from $4.14 billion to $500 million in actual damages and another $1.62 billion in punitive damages. The overall damages award was $2.1 billion.
Thousands of women with ovarian cancer have filed lawsuits alleging that the company failed to warn them of the potential risks. In previous talc cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, plaintiffs argued that talc was the cause of their ovarian cancer; however, the scientific data was not conclusive. In the most recent cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys focused on asbestos contamination as the cause of ovarian cancer as asbestos could cause cancer with very little exposure.
Asbestos and talc are naturally occurring minerals that are formed under related geological circumstances. As a consequence, talc deposits in mines often contain veins of asbestos. Internal memos discovered during litigation, exposed how Johnson & Johnson became concerned about the chances of asbestos contaminating its talc products for over 50 years. The first known Asbestos ovarian cancer link was discovered in 1958. The International Agency for Research on Cancer affirmed asbestos was the cause of cancer in a 2011 paper. Since 1980, consumer advocates have advanced concerns about traces of asbestos contaminating talcum powder products. Johnson & Johnson began to market an alternative personal hygiene product made from cornstarch due to the growing fears of talc-asbestos contamination.
Talc is also used in several cosmetic products such as eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, blush, and foundation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already issued numerous safety alerts warning consumers that asbestos had been discovered in children’s makeup such as eye shadow that was sold at Claire’s, a popular retail store for teenage girls.
Johnson & Johnson is facing over 19,000 talc powder cancer lawsuits related to talc body powders. Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in some of these cases while losing big in other trials. Johnson & Johnson is appealing almost all of the talc cancer cases the company has failed to win.
In 2019, Johnson & Johnson recalled over 33,000 bottles of talc-based baby powder following the news that FDA investigators discovered asbestos in a bottle of baby powder that was purchased from an online retailer. Johnson & Johnson claims its test results proved the product was asbestos-free and safe to use.
In August 2019, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $572 million in damages in an opioid lawsuit in Oklahoma. This past October, Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a Philadelphia jury to pay a Maryland man $8 billion in a drug injury lawsuit involving the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
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