J&J To Pay Over $100 Million To Resolve Over 1,000 Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay over $100 million to resolve over 1,000 lawsuits that blamed its talc-based baby powder for cancer diagnoses.
Securities filings suggest over 20,000 lawsuits are still pending. The settlement is the first in over four years of litigation.
J&J maintains its baby powder is safe, but it has replaced it with a version containing cornstarch in the United States and Canada.
J&J said it has set aside money for “potential settlement of currently pending mesothelioma cases” in a July securities filing.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said J&J’s payout is part of a strategy.
“J&J is generally loath to settle lawsuits, so when you see this kind of push, it’s part of a strategy rather than a sign of desperation,” Tobias said.
J&J Has Known For Years About Talc’s Cancer Risks
Internal J&J memos from the 1960s acknowledged the presence of carcinogenic asbestos in their talc products, according to a Missouri appeals court.
A 2018 New York Times investigation found J&J knew its talc products were possibly contaminated with asbestos for around 50 years without telling the public. The investigation found that a J&J executive recommended to senior staff in 1971 that the company upgrade its talc quality control because it could possibly be contaminated by asbestos. Another executive said the company shouldn’t assume its talc mines were asbestos-free in 1973, according to the investigation.
The investigation found that a New York University chemist tested J&J’s talc products in the early 1970s, finding asbestos in over half of the 11 samples of J&J’s baby powder he tested. The investigation found the FDA gave the report to an industry trade group, who shared it with J&J and threatened to sue to block it from reaching the public.
Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson lost a $4.7 billion talc verdict in 2018, reduced to $2.1 billion on appeal. That lawsuit claimed J&J officials knew their own tests found asbestos in the powder yet hid this for over 40 years.
A California jury awarded a woman $12 million in June 2019, finding that J&J’s talcum powder products caused her cancer because they were defectively designed. The jury also found that J&J failed to warn the public about the risk of cancer associated with their product when they should have warned about the risk.
Lawsuits allege that talcum powder products are dangerous and defective by design because asbestos is found in talc mines and the process talc product makers use to remove asbestos from talc is ineffective and thus defective.