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J&J And Kenvue Must Pay $45 Million In Talcum Baby Powder Lawsuit

Topline

An Illinois court late Friday ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue to pay $45 million to a family that alleged the companies’ talcum-based baby powder led to the death of a relative diagnosed with a fatal cancer linked to asbestos exposure, the company’s latest legal issue involving talc products.

Key Facts

Theresa Garcia died in July 2020 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer frequently connected to asbestos exposure, and her family filed a lawsuit alleging that Garcia’s frequent use of the companies’ talcum-based baby powder led to her diagnosis, according to a news release from legal firm Dean Omar Branham Shirley, which represented the family.

The firm’s news release said that throughout the case attorneys showed evidence that the products “contained asbestos fibers” and experts “explained that the daily use and amount inhaled by Ms. Garcia throughout her life led to her mesothelioma.”

The jury found that Kenvue, the former consumer healthcare division of the pharmaceutical giant that became an independent company in August 2023, was responsible for 70% of the issues that led to Garcia’s death while Johnson & Johnson and another unit were responsible for the remaining 30%, according to the release.

J&J’s Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas said in a statement the company plans to appeal Friday’s ruling immediately and expects to be successful, going on to say: “The verdict in this trial is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming talc is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”

Contra

Johnson & Johnson won a similar lawsuit in a Florida court Thursday, according to multiple outlets, after a jury decided the company’s baby powder did not lead to the ovarian cancer diagnosis of Patricia Matthey, who used the powder daily and died in 2019 after being diagnosed with the cancer in 2016.

Key Background

Johnson & Johnson has maintained that its talc-based baby powder does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, and announced in August 2022 it would swap out the substance with cornstarch in products globally beginning in 2023. It previously announced the discontinuation of its talc-based products in North America in 2020, citing declining sales. The Justice Department opened a probe into the products in July 2019, investigating what the company knew about the risk of cancer. Amid thousands of lawsuits over allegations of talc-induced health problems, Johnson & Johnson filed for bankruptcy twice, in October 2021 and April 2023. As part of one of the filings, the company proposed an $8.9 billion settlement last April to resolve the claims brought by thousands of plaintiffs, but the plan was ultimately rejected by a judge in July.

Big Number

More than 50,000. That’s how many lawsuits the pharmaceutical giant was facing over the talcum-based baby powder as of December 2023, according to Reuters.

Tangent

In January, Johnson & Johnson reportedly entered a tentative agreement that involved the company paying $700 million for the marketing of its talcum baby powder after an investigation from more than 400 states and thousands of lawsuits.

Further Reading

J&J wins trial over Florida woman who claimed its baby powder caused her cancer (Reuters)

J&J Cancer Lawsuit Strategy Tossed By Bankruptcy Judge (Bloomberg)

Johnson & Johnson Will Pay $700 Million To Resolve Baby Powder Marketing Probe, Report Says (Forbes)

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