A California jury has awarded a woman $29 million on her claim that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc products caused her cancer. This case is the latest in a string of defeats for the consumer and pharmaceutical product company, which faces thousands of similar lawsuits in courts across the country.
Teresa Leavitt, the woman at the center of the case, argued that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was a substantial contributing factor in causing her mesothelioma. Because of her cancer, the mother of two is not expected to live past 2020. Though Ms. Leavitt testified that she stopped using J&J’s Baby Powder decades ago, recent tests revealed that she had asbestos in her lungs. J&J argued that there was no credible evidence that their products caused Ms. Leavitt’s cancer and that the asbestos could have come from other sources.
A jury in the Alameda County Superior Court ultimately agreed with Ms. Leavitt and found Johnson & Johnson liable for harm that Leavitt suffered due to her cancer.
J&J disputes the verdict, citing “serious procedural and evidentiary errors,” and plans to appeal. In a statement issued Wednesday, the company continued to maintain that its products are safe: “We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product.” A Reuters investigation of J&J’s internal documents in December 2018 suggested that the company has known for decades that its talc products contained asbestos and failed to disclose that information to the public. J&J has refused to place any kind of warning label on their products.
This verdict marks J&J’s seventh trial loss in claims related to its talcum powder products. The company’s stock has responded in kind, dropping nearly two percent in after-hours trading following the latest verdict. More than two dozen additional trials are scheduled for this year over J&J’s talc products.
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