In the aftermath of an initial $25 million talcum powder asbestos compensatory verdict for a woman with mesothelioma, a New York jury is hitting Johnson & Johnson with another $300 million in punitive damages to punish the personal care behemoth for actively concealing the dangerous nature of its talcum powder products, including the company’s iconic Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower product lines.
Donna Olson’s case was the first of four talcum powder asbestos claims slated to go before juries this year.
The staggering combined verdict of $325 million is the first time since the 1980s that the “asbestos court” in New York has levied punitive damages. In general, punitive damages are rare and only used in instances of particularly horrific conduct.
The first phase of Olson’s trial established the basis for compensatory damages by proving she developed mesothelioma from J&J’s talcum powder products. She breathed in asbestos in the talc particles from the time she was approximately eight years old until the mid-1980s. The second phase of her trial demonstrated that J&J knew that its talc was contaminated and not only refused to take corrective action but actively concealed the significant dangers of its products.
Mesothelioma is a rare strain of cancer that appears to be isolated to asbestos exposure. Generally, the disease has an exceptionally long latency period before diagnosis and is often very advanced by this time. Consequently, treatment options are few and far between.
Despite the verdicts piling up in recent years for women with mesothelioma and ovarian cancer from using J&J’s talcum powder products, the company continues to refuse to negotiate talcum powder settlements to resolve the litigation.
Talcum Powder Asbestos and Cancer Lawsuits
Currently, J&J is facing nearly 12,000 Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits nationwide. These lawsuits allege that the company knew about its products’ cancer risks for decades but actively concealed the dangers to product its brand image and profits.
In addition to a growing number of mesothelioma claims, many of the lawsuits allege that J&J specifically marketed its talcum powder products for feminine hygiene to increase use and market share despite knowing that its products can cause ovarian cancer.
District Judge Fred L. Wolfson is currently presiding over the federal talcum powder multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.