Johnson & Johnson® is facing thousands of talcum powder lawsuits alleging that their talc products contain harmful asbestos fibers and cause cancer. Just last week, jurors returned verdicts in two separate lawsuits against the company.
Although the two cases are similar, jurors on each trial returned opposing verdicts. New York City jurors awarded $25 million to a woman with mesothelioma—an asbestos-caused cancer that affects the lung lining—who claimed that J&J®’s talcum powder products caused her illness. On the same day, jurors in a South Carolina trial cleared the company of liability, concluding that the talc powder does not contain asbestos.
Asbestos cases like these are widely inconsistent and unpredictable. Each case is different, which is why mixed verdicts are common.
Jurors Return $25 Million Verdict in New York
In one of many talcum powder lawsuits against J&J, Donna Olson held the company responsible for her mesothelioma diagnosis. According to Olson, she developed the asbestos-related cancer after using J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products daily from the age of eight. Olson said that some of the talc particles made it into her lungs because the powder would create a cloud when she applied it.
Jurors in the New York trial sided with Olson, finding that the J&J’s talc products contained asbestos that caused her disease. They also found that J&J had known that their products contained asbestos for decades but did nothing to warn consumers.
Olsen was awarded $25 million as compensation for her illness. After meeting again more recently, the jury ordered J&J to pay another $300 million in punitive damages to Olsen. This brings the total amount awarded to $325 million.
Scientist Dr. William Longo testified on the trial as Olson’s witness. Through testing, Dr. Longo claimed to have found traces of asbestos in talc samples, concluding that J&J’s Baby Powder did contain asbestos.
Expert witness, Dr. William Longo, testified he found that 71% of his talcum baby powder samples contained amphibole asbestos.
During the case in New York, J&J tried to disqualify Dr. Longo’s testimony. J&J claims that Dr. Longo lied about where he obtained his baby powder samples. The company plans to appeal the verdict, as they have done with all recent verdicts of this magnitude.
Jury Sides With Johnson & Johnson® in South Carolina
In a similar talcum powder lawsuit, Beth-Anee Johnson claimed that J&J’s Baby Powder caused her to develop peritoneal mesothelioma—an asbestos-caused cancer that affects the abdominal lining. She had been using the Baby Powder since the 1960s and said that ingesting and inhaling the powder had resulted in her illness.
J&J’s lawyers argued that Beth-Anee Johnson could not have developed peritoneal mesothelioma by inhaling the Baby Powder since medical tests found no asbestos in her lungs. Instead, they say that her mesothelioma was a rare, naturally-occurring case.
Jurors on the South Carolina trial were given additional information that the New York jurors did not hear. During the trial, J&J presented evidence that Dr. Longo’s talc testimony was misleading.
The defendant’s lawyers were able to argue that Dr. Longo misled everyone about where he obtained his baby powder samples for testing. Although he took 45 of his talc samples from the J&J corporate museum, defense attorneys argued he received some of his talc samples from a biased source. Defense lawyers also argued that Dr. Longo’s testing methods were flawed because they couldn’t differentiate asbestos minerals from non-asbestos minerals.
As a result, the South Carolina jury found that J&J’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos. Since asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, they decided that J&J’s product could not have caused the plaintiff’s disease.
Every Talc Case Is Different
It’s clear that these two talcum powder lawsuits are very similar. Both plaintiffs were women who developed mesothelioma, and both claim that the regular use of J&J’s Baby Powder caused their illness. Despite these similarities, the cases ended very differently. Jurors on the cases reached opposing conclusions based on the evidence provided and the arguments made by either side.
Talc and asbestos cases are incredibly complicated. Plaintiffs on these trials have to effectively prove that the defendant’s actions directly caused their illness. This can be tricky because many asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, take years to develop after exposure.
These talcum powder lawsuits rest on evidence that talc products contain asbestos. However, they also rely on whether or not the plaintiff can prove that talc causes cancer.
If you have used talcum powder at any point in the past and you’ve developed cancer, contact an experienced lawyer to learn about your compensation options. Many talc companies market their products as safe, even if they present health hazards to consumers. Get in touch with an experienced lawyer to have your case reviewed today.
“Johnson & Johnson Loses $25 Million Talc Verdict in New York” Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-21/johnson-johnson-loses-25-million-new-york-talc-verdict. Accessed on June 1, 2019.
“Same day, different verdicts: Why do some juries think there is asbestos in talcum powder and others don’t?” Legal Newsline. Retrieved from https://legalnewsline.com/stories/512532591-same-day-different-verdicts-why-do-some-juries-think-there-is-asbestos-in-talcum-powder-and-others-don-t. Accessed on June 1, 2019.
“Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $300 million in talc cancer case” The Hill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/446381-johnson-johnson-ordered-to-pay-300-million-in-talc-cancer-case. Accessed on June 1, 2019.
“South Carolina Jury Finds No Asbestos In Johnson & Johnson’s Talc-Based Baby Powder” Courtroom Connect. Retrieved from https://blog.cvn.com/breaking-south-carolina-jury-finds-no-asbestos-in-johnson-johnsons-cosmetic-talc-products. Accessed on June 1, 2019.