Johnson & Johnson Hit With Historic $4.69 Billion Talc Verdict


On July 12, a jury hit Johnson & Johnson with a $4.69 billion verdict for allegedly failing to warn of the presence and health risks of asbestos (a known carcinogen) in their talcum-based products.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of 22 women (six of whom have since passed away) claimed that they contracted ovarian cancer after years of allegedly using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and shower-to-shower products.

The St Louis jury found that Johnson & Johnson’s negligence contributed to the plaintiffs’ injuries. They awarded the women $550 million in compensatory damages and hit J&J and J&J Consumer with $4.4 billion in punitive damages. This roughly broke down to $25 million for each woman who filed a claim individually, and $12.5 million for the husbands of the six women who have since passed away.

Plaintiffs Allege J&J Hid Talc Cancer Link for Decades

The plaintiffs alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew of the potential health risks of their talcum-based products as early as the 1970s but failed to warn consumers.

Plaintiffs have surfaced multiple J&J internal documents in similar talc trials to argue that the company knew there was a link between their products and cancer. These include a document in which a medical consultant allegedly compared ignoring the risks of hygienic talc use to ignoring the cancer risks associated with smoking.

Other documents have allegedly suggested the company was aware of the presence of asbestos in their talc products. In 1974, a J&J official reported that occasionally two types of asbestos were detected in the company’s baby powder that might be classified as asbestos fiber.

Dozens of recent studies have also suggested that using talc-based products can increase the risk of developing cancer. A 2013 report from the American Association for Cancer Research suggested that talc powder is “associated with a modest 20-30 percent increase in risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer.”

$4.69B Verdict Latest in String of ‘Enormous Verdicts’

“The profits over safety theme has enraged jurors and resulted in these enormous verdicts.”

Despite a growing number of unearthed internal documents and research reports suggesting talc’s cancer risk, J&J continues to fight claims from consumers who allege talc caused their cancer. But many juries aren’t buying the company’s denials, and have often sided with plaintiffs by issuing multi-million dollar verdicts for their alleged injuries.

In April, a jury awarded Stephen Lazo $117 million for allegedly contracting mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and shower-to-shower products for more than 30 years. Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos that typically affects the lungs.

In May 2017, Lois Slemp was awarded the first nine-figure verdict against Johnson & Johnson. She alleged that her ovarian cancer was caused by more than 40 years of using their baby powder and shower-to-shower products. The jury awarded her $110 million, including $105 million in punitive damages.

Other notable J&J losses include a $55 million verdict for Gloria Ristesund and a $70 million verdict for Deborah Giannecchini—both of whom were diagnosed with ovarian cancer—and a $25.7 million verdict for Joanne Anderson who was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Surprisingly, these losses haven’t made a dent in J&J’s position that their products are safe. In fact, after the latest loss, they called the verdict “fundamentally unfair,” and vowed to appeal it.

“What is astonishing here is that a simple warning by J&J of the link between its baby powder and ovarian cancer would take away the profits over safety theme that has enraged jurors and resulted in these enormous verdicts,” said Michael Goetz, head of the Mass Tort section of the Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.

J&J Still Faces 9,000 Talc Cancer Claims

This is nowhere near the end of J&J’s talc litigation. There are 9,000 lawsuits still pending that also allege a link between J&J’s talc products and ovarian cancer.

If you or a loved one used J&J’s baby powder or shower-to-shower products and later developed cancer, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. A lawsuit may be able to help recover damages like medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and loss of companionship.  

Contact our attorneys today for a free case review. It never costs a thing unless we win a jury verdict or settlement for you.