Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Cancer Lawsuits

White bottle of Johnson's baby powder isolated on black background

Johnson & Johnson has been a household name since 1894. At that time, their signature product was a baby powder made from crushed talc. Today, they’re one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, reporting worldwide sales of over $93.7 billion in 2021. 

While the company may have begun producing its baby powder with good intentions, J&J is now plagued with numerous lawsuits over the cancer-causing asbestos that was included in the product. The first class-action lawsuit was filed in 2017, with the allegation that more than 50 women developed ovarian cancer after using the product. In 2019, the United States Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson had purposefully misled the public about the presence of asbestos fibers in their talcum powder (i.e. baby powder).

Since then, thousands of lawsuits have been filed, claiming that asbestos exposure from the use of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder resulted in cases of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. 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 stated in a previous blog, How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma, any product containing asbestos can be harmful. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the development of mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and other health issues. 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, or sometimes decades, after the fact. 

Many Americans have been long-term users of Johnson & Johnson's asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. Since the company only stopped selling its talc-based baby powder in May 2020, we have yet to see the full scope of people who have suffered health impacts.

Johnson & Johnson has publicly denied the existence of asbestos in their talcum powder and claims that it causes cancer, despite documents that revealed the company had known of the asbestos contamination since the 1970s, much like most other companies accused of using asbestos products. 

Timeline of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Cases

To date, billions of dollars have been awarded to victims of Johnson & Johnson's contaminated baby powder. Here’s a look at the timeline of legal proceedings:

  • 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 and that 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.
  • February 2022: J&J attempts to transfer all of its liabilities related to the talcum powder lawsuits to a newly formed entity called LTL Management. The new subsidiary promptly filed for bankruptcy.  As of July 2022, an appeal by the affected plaintiffs remains pending.
  • May 2022: Johnson & Johnson investors vote not to end global sales of the talc-based baby powder despite all of the evidence about the product’s lack of safety and the company’s ongoing legal troubles.  

Key Rulings in J&J Talcum Powder Lawsuits

  • $4.7 billion: Awarded in July 2018 by a jury in Missouri to 22 women who claimed the company’s asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer
  • $29.4 million: Awarded in March 2019 by a jury in California to a mesothelioma patient in response to a claim that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc powder caused her cancer. J&J appealed the decision, but the appeals court defended the original verdict, ruling that the company had to pay.
  • $325 million: Awarded in May 2019 to a Brooklyn woman who sued J&J after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
  • $750 million: Awarded in February 2020 by a jury in New Jersey to four mesothelioma patients. This amount was eventually lowered to $185 million due to a New Jersey law limiting compensatory damages.
  • $100 million: In the spring of 2021, a massive jury verdict led J&J to pay out $100 million to settle 1,000 pending talc cases.

As of March 2022, Johnson and Johnson was still facing more than 38,000 cases, even after agreeing to a $100 million settlement in 2021.

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 can undergo regular medical monitoring and screening. In the 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 since the 1970s and have been awarded large amounts on their behalf. 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

While these are the most notable, 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.

If you believe you or a loved one has been affected by asbestos exposure, we encourage you to fill out our case evaluation form to get the process started in moving toward compensation and justice.

 

Learn more about Talcum Powder Lawsuits

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