Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update
Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update (January 10, 2020). On January 6, 2020, a California judge announced a settlement of claims against Johnson & Johnson arising from a lawsuit claiming that J&J’s talcum powder caused mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. The announcement came in the middle of a trial in which the jury had heard that the federal Food and Drug Administration recently found asbestos in a sample of J&J’s baby powder.
Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly denied that its baby powder contains asbestos and claims its own testing showed no such asbestos in the samples tested. However, J&J agreed to recall 33,000 bottles of its baby powder after the FDA’s positive results.
According to the Food and Drug Administration:
On October 18, 2019 Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled one lot of baby powder, after a sample tested positive for asbestos. The recalled product is Johnson’s Baby Powder Lot #22318RB. The lot number can be found on the back of the bottle, directly underneath the cap.
The FDA is advising consumers not to use this specific lot of the product.
This sampling took place during the FDA’s ongoing survey of testing talc-containing cosmetics for asbestos.
An expert also testified in the trial that internal Johnson & Johnson documents revealed efforts by the company to remove or reduce an asbestos mineral from talc produced by certain mines. Plaintiffs have also relied on internal memos to prove Johnson & Johnson was aware of the risk for decades. According to the New York Times:
An executive at Johnson & Johnson said the main ingredient in its best-selling baby powder could potentially be contaminated by asbestos, the dangerous mineral that can cause cancer. He recommended to senior staff in 1971 that the company “upgrade” its quality control of talc.
Two years later, another executive raised a red flag, saying the company should no longer assume that its talc mines were asbestos-free. The powder, he said, sometimes contained materials that “might be classified as asbestos fiber.”
Johnson & Johnson continues to face thousands of lawsuits claiming that its baby powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The largest verdict came in 2018 when a jury awarded 4.7 billion dollars to a group of women, finding that J&J’s baby powder had caused their ovarian cancer.
Steven T. Webster, Webster Book LLP