Johnson & Johnson has been around since 1886 and became a household name in 1894 with their introduction of baby powder made from crushed talc. Previous to becoming a household name, they primarily operated to meet the sterilized medical equipment need of doctors and other medical professionals. Today, they are one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, reporting $81.6 billion in worldwide sales in 2018.
But what may have started with good intentions to provide households with a baby product has turned into quite the ordeal, as Johnson & Johnson has received flak and many lawsuits over their baby powder containing asbestos in recent years. Private lawsuits were filed previous to 2018, and in 2019, the United States Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson was and had purposefully misled the public about the presence of asbestos fibers in their talcum powder (i.e. baby powder). Many thousands of lawsuits have been filed since the criminal investigation, claiming cases of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer have been brought on from asbestos exposure as a result of the use of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder. The criminal investigation is still ongoing.
The Dangers of Asbestos in Baby Powder
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is classified as a known human carcinogen. As we stated in a previous blog on 'How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma', asbestos can be harmful in any product, and it is the cause of mesothelioma as well as other diseases. Because of the nature of asbestos damage, many do not know the full impact of their exposure—or even that they have been exposed—until years, sometimes decades, after the fact.
Think of all the women, maybe yourself included, that have used baby powder on their children for years, or even on themselves.
Think about the fact that our bodies can't dispel asbestos fibers, so they live in our bodies for the rest of our lives.
Let it sink in that the effects of it aren't usually seen for 10 to 50 years after exposure.
Johnson & Johnson only stopped selling their talc-based baby powder in May 2020, which means we have yet to see the full scope of people that have had their health affected. Long term use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and other health issues. Many Americans have been long term users of Johnson & Johnson's asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.
Johnson & Johnson have publicly denied the existence of asbestos in their talcum powder and the claim that it causes cancer, despite unsealed documents in 2017 revealing that they've known of the asbestos contamination since the 1970s, much like most other companies accused of using asbestos products.
The Legal Ramifications of the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Case
To date, billions of dollars have been awarded to victims of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder. The timeline of legal proceedings to date is as such:
- October 2017: A class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, filed by more than 50 St. Louis women with ovarian cancer, provided evidence that the company knew its talcum-based products contained asbestos since the 1970s. They had trained their employees to deny its existence.
- April 2018: Johnson & Johnson lost their first big case involving their baby powder when a New Jersey jury ordered them to pay $80 million in punitive damages to Stephen Lanzo III, as well as $37 million in compensatory damages. Stephen Lanzo III had claimed that he developed mesothelioma as a result of using their baby powder.
- December 2018: An investigative report was published by Reuters, in which they claimed that Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder contained asbestos and that they had covered it up and never reported it to the FDA.
- January 2019: Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, requested documentation from Johnson & Johnson about their past testing for asbestos in their baby powder. This was in response to the claim put forward by Reuters.
- October 2019: A container of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder was flagged by the FDA when it was found to contain asbestos. It was part of a 33,000-bottle batch, which the company voluntarily recalled. As a result, retailers across the country pulled Johnson & Johnson's baby powder from their shelves.
- May 2020: Johnson & Johnson announced that they would stop selling their talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada and replace it with a cornstarch-based version. Their talc-based version continues to be sold internationally.
As of now, the Department of Justice continues to look into Johnson & Johnson.
Should You Be Worried?
We don't encourage you to worry, but we do encourage you to be proactive! If you haven't been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness but you've been exposed to asbestos-contaminated products like Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, you have the ability to undergo regular medical monitoring and screening. Best case scenario, you can rest easy knowing your status and hopefully never suffer the effects of asbestos.
However, if you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with a related illness, you may be entitled to compensation.
Our Experience in Asbestos Cases
We have been fighting for the victims and families exposed to asbestos and have been awarded large amounts on their behalf since the 1970s. We are a respected national leader in asbestos litigation and mesothelioma litigation and are proud of the following notable accomplishments:
- $200,000,000 settlement in a consolidated asbestos case. At the time, this settlement was the largest in the history of Illinois
- $35,100,000 verdict for a refinery worker exposed to asbestos at Shell Oil
- $12,300,000 verdict for an insulator exposed to asbestos on the job
- $3,500,000 verdict for an electrician exposed to asbestos on the job
- $3,000,000 verdict for an insulator exposed to asbestos on the job
These are just the most notable, but we have represented hundreds of victims and families just like yours over the years. We are not strangers to the realities that come with cases like this, whether in the courtroom or relating to your well-being, and we're here for you every step of the way.
We encourage you to fill out our case evaluation to get the process started toward compensation and justice!