California jury awards $29M in baby powder cancer case

Roman Schwartz
March 16, 2019

Leavitt was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017 after using Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower during the 1960s and 1970s. It's the first defeat since a Missouri jury ordered the company a year ago to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed their cancer on the product.

Johnson & Johnson is facing over 13,000 more cases stemming from asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.

A Superior Court jury in Oakland, California on Thursday (NZ time) found the world's largest health care company mainly liable for Teresa Leavitt's mesothelioma.

The company also noted that multiple cases have been decided in favor of J&J, or been declared mistrials.

A California jury has awarded $29m to a woman who said asbestos in Johnson & Johnson's talcum-powder-based products caused her cancer. 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. The verdict said that the baby powder was a "substantial contributing factor" in her illness.

The company has appealed against all of the plaintiff verdicts, and the company said it was confident the verdicts would be overturned on appeal. In December previous year, the company reiterated the safety of its products as a slew of drug regulators around the world such as the US FDA and India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) analysed samples of J&J products. "The internal J&J documents that the jury saw, once more laid bare the shocking truth of decades of cover-up, deception and concealment by J&J".

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The conglomerate said it would appeal the order and cited "serious procedural and evidentiary errors" in the trial's proceedings.

The lawsuit, brought by Terry Leavitt, was the first of more than a dozen J&J talc cases scheduled for trial in 2019. Cypress Mines, one of J&J's former talc suppliers, is answerable for the remaining 2 percent.

In December, the New York Times reported that for years, Johnson & Johnson executives anxious that their talc-based products would one day be linked to asbestos.

"'They knew there was asbestos in it, and for me that's the worst part because they failed to warn the consumer", said Kate Alessandri, an Oakland librarian.

The US Food and Drug Administration had commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including Johnson & Johnson's, from 2009 to 2010.

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