Johnson & Johnson to Pay $4.7 Billion in Asbestos Case

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Johnson’s Baby Powder has been a trusted product for diaper rash, soothing adult skin and even for feminine hygiene purposes since 1888. Despite their longtime run in business, 22 American women have successfully sued Johnson & Johnson in a Missouri court on the grounds that the iconic talcum-based brand and other of the company’s talc products, resulted in ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. In July 2018, the jury awarded the women a record-setting $4.69 billion judgment.

The Court’s Divide

The award from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis was broken down in the following divide:

    1. • $550 million for the women and their lawyers for compensatory damages; and
    • an additional $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

J&J announced that they would appeal the decision.

Ongoing Battles

The longtime company with the iconic “baby” product should be well-used to the fight by now. This record-setting Missouri verdict is just the latest of many cases that J&J has faced — and continues to face — for allegations of the product’s serious health risk. J&J has lost several of these suits in initial courthouse rounds, but the company has been able to win all of the earlier cases on appeal.

Missouri for Women’s Health Rights

One possible area of appeal in this latest case is the home of the 22 plaintiffs who brought forth the suit. Seventeen of the plaintiff group live outside of the state of Missouri. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled on issues of the importance of jurisdiction in personal injury lawsuits. As a result, J&J is likely to argue that this particular circuit court was not the proper venue for the cases of most of the women. (The perception in some legal circles is that Missouri juries tend to be particularly friendly to plaintiffs in cases such as this. That might provide a strong plaintiffs’ motive for basing the case here.)

Deadly Contamination Charged

The key argument made in this personal injury trial, as well as in the flurry of past cases against the corporation, is that Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products from the company have been inadvertently contaminated with asbestos. In fact, lawyers say that this contamination has posed an ongoing health and safety concern since (at least) the 1970s.

Tracing the Risk in Asbestos

If true, the inclusion of traced amounts of the deadly asbestos substance could lead to a range of serious and even fatal medical conditions. This list of medical conditions includes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a tissue cancer.

Originally Industrial

The deadly fiber was commonly used as an insulation material in found in construction and automotive manufacture, as well as for other applications in the industry. This use was until the health risk was established and the product was banned for industrial use.

Easily Accessible

Many of the defendants in this latest case had claimed they used Johnson’s Baby Powder and other of the company’s talc-based products for years. The product is an overall fine powder, making it easy to accidentally inhale into the lungs. Women may increase the risk for Ovarian Cancer by applying Johnson’s talcum powder near their private area. This exposure, over long periods of time, may be threatened by the carcinogen.

A Mining Disaster?

A full understanding of the controversy begins with a brief lesson on talcum powder. Talc is a soft rock that’s often found in nature in close physical association with the potentially deadly substance once used for insulation. Talc is mined from the earth and one of the key legal arguments made in these cases against J&J is that tiny amounts of the dangerous mineral fiber are accidentally mined and processed along with the soft rock. In addition, this potentially lethal mixture of good and bad is processed into baby powder and other talc-based products from J&J.

FDA Input

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagrees with that scenario. The FDA tested talc products including those from J&J in 2009 and 2010, and found no evidence of contamination by the mineral fiber. Lawyers for plaintiffs have since argued that FDA testing methods were not sensitive enough to detect minute traces of the contaminant in the product.

The Appeal

Nonetheless, juries tend to be convinced of the dangerous mix. This factor has been obvious in such cases as the one in a California courtroom in 2017. Such lawsuit resulted in the jury awarding the plaintiffs $417 million. This case was the previous most expensive J&J loss. However, that case, as well as other earlier cases, was overturned on appeal.

Johnson & Johnson for a Long-Time Trial

With the serious and even terminal ailments of Johnson product-using plaintiffs on the line, the very ill plaintiffs can’t be blamed for filing so many cases. Given that, it’s one legal battle after another for J&J. Nine thousand personal injury cases already having been filed so far and there’s no end in sight.

On Edge with Appeals

J&J faces the ever-growing negative impact to its brand and sky-high legal costs. Lost lawsuits could trigger near-fatal hits to the company’s bottom line and stock value. Thus, the company may not be able to afford to settle such cases and must hope to continue winning their losses on later appeals.

Defending Talcum Victims

In other words, it’s such a life and death issue to both parties that it’s unlikely that the legal skirmishes will end anytime soon. Courthouses all over America should be ready to set dates for new trials. In addition, if you, or someone you love, was negatively impacted after using Johnson & Johnson’s products for years, contact our firm immediately ” we may be able to help. Our product liability attorneys may answer any questions you may have, as well as help you pursue your legal matter and defending your rights.


Your free case review regarding your unique situation is available by calling:

888-529-3111 Monday-Friday, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.


Jack Ter-Saakyan, Esq.
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