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The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson involving its talcum powder have made headlines recently in the wake of several large jury verdicts against the company. The talcum powder has been alleged to have caused a large amount of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer cases among women, and some men, as there are claims that the powder contains asbestos. The company has been facing staggering liability that has knocked down its share price. Johnson & Johnson has already had awards of over $5 billion assessed against it and faces much more possible liability in the future as there are over 10,000 pending cases alleging a connection between its flagship product talcum powder and cancer. If you or a loved one believe that a case of cancer was caused by use of talc powder, you should immediately contact an attorney. 

What is Talcum Powder? 

Many people have come to associate Johnson & Johnson with baby powder. The product is made out of talc, which consists of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. The product is intended to remove excess moisture from the skin and keep it soft. The product is one of Johnson & Johnson’s highest grossing offerings on the market. According to Johnson & Johnson’s annual report, the Skin Care and Baby Care product segments were responsible for over $6 billion of revenues in 2017. 

Links Between Talcum Powder and Cancer 

However, it has been alleged that the talc powder contains asbestos in addition to its other ingredients. Notwithstanding Johnson & Johnson’s denials, talc and asbestos occur near each other in the ground. Many other products, such as Crayola crayons, that are made with talc, have also been shown to include traces of asbestos. 

Although the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association issued voluntary guidance in 1976 that stated that talcum powder should be asbestos free, there have been many reports of cancer that has been linked to talc powder. Specifically, talcum powder has been alleged to be the cause of ovarian cancer in women. Normally, one in every 75 women will develop ovarian cancer over the course of their lifetime. However, usage of talc powder can increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer by roughly 33 percent according to a study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 

Johnson & Johnson continues to sell talc-based powders despite the reports of the linkage to ovarian cancer. There has been nothing that has disproved the allegation of the causal relationship between talcum powder and cancer. Although the FDA did not find concrete traces of asbestos in talc when it tested in 2009, it pointedly refused to rule out the fact that talc powder could contain asbestos. The FDA has released no further studies even as the evidence that talc can cause cancer mounts. The World Health Organization has stated that genital use of talc baby powder as possibly carcinogenic although the Centers for Disease Control has not yet issued that finding. 

Lawsuits Filed Against Johnson & Johnson 

There have been a large number of claims that have been filed against Johnson & Johnson seeking compensation for harm that has allegedly been caused by talcum powder usage. Although Johnson & Johnson has won some of these cases, the number of verdicts against the company has been rising. Plaintiffs have won over $5 billion in awards against the company. 

The complaints have alleged that Johnson & Johnson has known that its talc powder contains asbestos since 1973, which was two years after the first report of a linkage. However, according to the plaintiffs, Johnson & Johnson manipulated the test results to show that its products were safe. The presence of asbestos in the talc powder makes it dangerous and unfit for its ordinary use. The plaintiffs have claimed that not only did Johnson & Johnson know of the dangerous nature of its product, but it had the duty to warn its customers of the potential harms they could face from using the product and did not do so. Despite these known dangers, the company continued to sell the product. 

The company had won many of the initial cases that were filed against it. However, the cases have recently been broadened to include allegations of asbestos in the powder. In addition, there are now claims that have been filed alleging that the talc powder causes mesothelioma in addition to ovarian cancer. In April 2018, Johnson & Johnson lost its first major lawsuit in this series of litigation when a jury awarded $117 million to a man suffering from mesothelioma. In addition, the company lost another case in California the following month. 

Johnson & Johnson recently lost a landmark case in this series of lawsuits. In Missouri, 22 women filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that they developed ovarian cancer after using talc powder. After a five-week trial, the company was found to be liable for the cancer. The jury needed only 45 minutes of deliberations to assess $4.14 billion of punitive damages against the corporation. In addition, the jury found that the plaintiffs were entitled to $550 million in compensatory damages for a total award of $4.7 billion. The trial judge affirmed the jury’s verdict, but Johnson & Johnson has promised to appeal the verdict as its stock took a major hit on the news of the jury’s verdict. 

Currently, there are over 10,000 claims pending against Johnson & Johnson related to talc powder. Although the tide appeared to have been turning, the company’s legal liability is far from a settled issue. The company recently did obtain a favorable verdict in a case in New Jersey as well another one in California. Nevertheless, the threat of the large liability that Johnson & Johnson faces has served to suppress the share price. There are many claims that are still pending and there is now some precedent for finding the company liable for the connection between talc powder and cancer. 

When you contact an attorney to discuss your case, you can receive an assessment of your chances of obtaining compensation for any harm that you may have suffered by using talc powder. The attorney can advise you of your legal rights and can explain the process for achieving a legal remedy. 

Sources: 

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/does-baby-powder-cause-cancer#6
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-lawsuit/jury-orders-jj-to-pay-4-7-billion-in-missouri-asbestos-cancer-case-idUSKBN1K234U