A Missouri judge’s decision last week to uphold a $4.69 billion verdict could encourage more people to file talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, legal experts say.
“Verdicts like these give women a sense of validation and a sense that everything they are suffering is not going to be in vain,” lawyer and women’s health advocate Holly Ennis told Drugwatch. “I think verdicts like these definitely help future cases.”
On Aug. 22, 2018, Judge Rex Burlison of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis affirmed jurors’ decision to award 22 women and their families $25 million each.
Talcum powder lawyer Mark Lanier represented the women. He argued that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talcum powder products led to the development of ovarian cancer. Six of the women died.
The case marks the first time Lanier argued that asbestos — and not just talc — caused the women’s ovarian cancer, according to Courtroom View Network. Previous talcum powder cases argued that talc alone caused the cancer.
Regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization recognize asbestos as a carcinogen. It is linked to the aggressive cancer mesothelioma.
Because talc and asbestos occur naturally together, asbestos may contaminate talc after mining. The FDA cannot guarantee that cosmetic talc products in the U.S. do not contain asbestos, according to its Talc web page.
Johnson & Johnson maintains that its talcum powder products are safe. The company said in a July 12 statement that it was “deeply disappointed in the verdict” and blamed “a fundamentally unfair process.” It plans to continue to appeal the Missouri court decision.
An appellate court may reduce the $4.69 billion jury verdict, Ennis told Drugwatch. But it could lead to a global settlement for Johnson & Johnson talc claims.
“It sends a clear message to J&J,” Ennis said. “It will most likely initiate a global resolution of the claims because J&J is not going to want to do this over and over again.”
Johnson & Johnson still faces about 10,600 talcum powder lawsuits, the company said in its Aug. 2, 2018, quarterly report filing.
On Aug. 20, 2018, a trial started in Los Angeles in a lawsuit claiming Johnson’s Baby Powder led to a woman’s mesothelioma.
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