J&J must pay $29 mil. over talc-linked cancer

Irving Hamilton
March 16, 2019

Johnson & Johnson must pay $29 million to a woman who claimed that the asbestos in the company's talcum powder-based products caused her terminal cancer, a California jury ruled Wednesday. A whopping 13,000 similar lawsuits have been filed across the country against the massive health care company. The New Brunswick, New Jerseybased company denies that its talc causes cancer, saying numerous studies and tests by regulators worldwide have shown that its talc is safe and asbestos- free.

Plaintiff Teresa Leavitt is a mother of two who said J&J's talc products were used on her as a child, and she used it herself into adulthood, Bloomberg reports. "We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product", the company said.

J&J said it would appeal, pointing to "serious procedural and evidentiary errors", Reuters reported. Exposure to it may increase risks of a number of diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. It said the woman's lawyers failed to show that the baby powder contained asbestos.

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.

Leavitt's trial originally included Johnson & Johnson talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, a unit of Imerys SE, as a co-defendant. It unsuccessfully appealed the verdict.

Talc is a soft mineral that is often found with asbestos.

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Montagnino emphasized that several cases have gone in favor of Johnson and Johnson and that there have been multiple mistrials.

J&J has refused to put a warning on its recognizable white bottles bearing the powder, even though a separate California jury past year asked a judge to order the company to do so. But asbestos, a carcinogen that can exist underground near talc, was a concern inside the company for decades. 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.

"'They knew there was asbestos in it, and for me that's the worst part because they failed to warn the consumer", said Kate Alessandri, an Oakland librarian.

Johnson's Baby Powder is immensely popular across the world, including India where its manufactured locally.

Ovarian cancer is the other cancer type at the heart of the J&J cases.

On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy also took a closer look at the science that may link talc to cancer and explored the possibility of creating a law that would more closely regulate the cosmetic and personal products industry.

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