A California court has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay decades-long baby powder user Teresa Leavitt $29.4 million.

The reason? A jury determined application of the product was a “substantial contributing factor” to Teresa’s mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the heart, lungs, and abdomen.

Yikes.

She’s not expected to live past 2020.

The Superior Court jury came to a decision on Wednesday, and there’s a lot more where that came from: Across the country, 13,000 similar cases are pending.

If you’re wondering: 13,000 x 29,000,000 =
$377,000,000,000.

Last year, the company lost a similar Golden State case to the tune of $25.7 million. In Missouri, a jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed they were diagnosed with cancer after using the baby powder.

Talc — a central component of most baby powders — is claimed by some to contain asbestos.

A statement released by Johnson & Johnson in light of Wednesday’s decision addressed the issue thusly:

We are disappointed with today’s verdict and will pursue an appeal because Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
There were serious procedural and evidentiary errors in the proceeding that required us to move for mistrial on eight different points during the proceeding. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have fundamentally failed to show that Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos, and their own experts concede that they are not recognizing the accepted definition of asbestos and are ignoring crucial distinctions between minerals that are asbestos and minerals that are not. We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product.

Importantly, in recent cases, there have been multiple defense verdicts and mistrials. This track record shows that there are one set of facts in these cases, and that decades of tests by independent, non-litigation driven experts and institutions repeatedly confirm that Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. We believe these issues will warrant a reversal on appeal.

As per CNN:

The debate over a link between talcum powder and cancer has been growing in the scientific community. Some studies have found an increased cancer risk, but others do not. Most suggest that more research is needed.

And according to MSN:

[Teresa Leavitt’s] lawyers noted that internal J&J documents indicated officials knew since the 1970s baby powder mined in places such as Vermont and Italy contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators. Asbestos is often found intertwined with talc.

The American Cancer Society reports that, while talc does naturally host asbestos, levels in products are supposed to be voluntarily minimized:

In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled (see Asbestos).

In 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association (CTFA), which is the trade association representing the cosmetic and personal care products industry, issued voluntary guidelines stating that all talc used in cosmetic products in the United States should be free from detectable amounts of asbestos according to their standards.

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal.

-Alex

 

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