Verdicts & Settlements

Jury awards $117M in case alleging talcum powder caused mesothelioma

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Jurors in New Jersey have awarded $117 million in a lawsuit that claimed Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused an investment banker’s mesothelioma.

Jurors apportioned 70 percent of the blame to Johnson & Johnson and 30 percent to its talcum supplier, Imerys Talc America, report the New Jersey Law Journal, Law360, Bloomberg News and Reuters.

Jurors had initially awarded compensatory damages of $30 million to Stephen Lanzo III, and $7 million to his wife, Kendra, for loss of consortium. Jurors added $80 million in punitive damages on Wednesday.

Lanzo said he had used Johnson’s baby powder and the company’s former product, Shower to Shower body powder. He alleged that trace amounts of asbestos in those products had caused his cancer.

Johnson & Johnson’s lawyer had argued that “almost 100 percent of the time” tests from various sources found no asbestos in talc, according to Law360. He also said the company had a testing regime to ensure product safety.

Lanzo’s lawyer had argued Johnson & Johnson used tests that detect asbestos over a certain threshold, and the company had influence over researchers.

The verdict was the first to find Johnson & Johnson was liable in a mesothelioma case. Jurors had found no liability for the company in a case last November. The company also faces more than 5,000 suits claiming the company’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that it was barred from presenting relevant evidence at trial, and it planned to appeal.

“Johnson’s (b)aby (p)owder has been used for more than 120 years and it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma,” the statement said. “After suffering multiple losses through court rulings and at trial, plaintiff’s attorneys have shifted their strategy and are now alleging that talcum powder is contaminated with asbestos, despite multiple independent, non-litigation-driven scientific evaluations which have found that our baby powder does not contain asbestos.”

Imerys also said it would appeal, and it continues to stand by the safety of its product.

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