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November 23, 2020

Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $120M in New York Talcum Powder Case

Woman Accepts Reduced Award for Mesothelioma Caused by Asbestos in Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson faces another massive payout over their talcum powder as a judge ordered the company to pay $120 million to a woman alleging J&J’s baby powder caused her mesothelioma.

Originally, a jury awarded $325 million to Donna Olson and her husband, Robert, in 2019 after a 14-week trial where the jury found evidence that J&J’s talc-based powder caused Olson’s mesothelioma. In justification of the punitive award, jurors found that J&J officials “willfully or recklessly committed egregious and extraordinary wrongdoing” in the way they handled their talc-based products, according to court filings.

However, Johnson & Johnson appealed the verdict and advocated for Judge Gerald Lebovits to dismiss the verdict entirely. Instead, the New York County Supreme Court judge lowered the jury’s verdict by about two-thirds. Lebovits released a court order on November 11, stating Olson could choose to either accept the $120 million verdict or have a new trial on damages.

Overall, the $120 million award breaks down to $15 million in compensatory damages and $105 in punitive damages. The New York couple agreed to the cut, Olson’s lawyer Jerome Block saying they were happy with the result. He added that Donna Olson’s mesothelioma “is at an advanced stage, and we are hoping for the best.”

Olson brought forward her claim against Johnson & Johnson in 2017 after she got her mesothelioma diagnosis. Testimony presented in the case revealed Olson used baby powder for years prior to her diagnosis.

During the trial, Olson’s lawyers showed jurors internal J&J documents from nearly six decades ago warning executives that talc in J&J baby powder was contaminated with asbestos. They argued that J&J chose to ignore the studies about asbestos in talc and failed to warn consumers about the health risks.

A 2018 Reuters report found that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about asbestos in talc, increasing scrutiny of the company’s marketing ethics. Earlier in 2020 J&J pulled their talc-based baby powder from the U.S. and Canadian markets over the increasing allegations that their talcum powder could cause cancer or contain asbestos.

While J&J has won several trials and gotten some dismissed, the pharmaceutical company has paid billions to plaintiffs from across the country. Each of these cases raised similar claims that J&J’s talcum powder caused injuries like ovarian cancer, asbestos-related injuries (like mesothelioma, and lung injuries from talc particle inhalation.

Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Kim Montagnino said in an emailed statement that the company will appeal the Olson case’s whole verdict.

“We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important,” the company stated. “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free, and does not cause cancer.”

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