Law Review: Huge judgment against Johnson & Johnson for its baby powder
As I prepare this column, I’m holding a 4 oz container from our medicine cabinet of “Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder … Clinically Proven Mildness … The Number One Choice of Hospitals. Ingredients: talc, fragrance.” I just sprinkled a little on my hand – it smells lovely, just like I remember it.
What’s wrong with this picture?
BABY POWDER CONTAINS ‘SMALL AMOUNTS OF ASBESTOS’
What’s wrong with this picture is that a 2018 Reuters investigation found Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its talc product contained small amounts of asbestos. Researchers have linked genital talcum power use with a 20-30% increase in ovarian cancer risk.
THOUSANDS OF LAWSUITS
Thousands of lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson with one ending in favor of plaintiffs with an award of $4.7 billion to the 22, later reduced to 20, plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit. An appeals court reduced the judgment to $2.1 billion.
Johnson & Johnson appealed, drawing several amicus curiae briefs on both sides of the litigation. This case has severe consequences for lots of people, most importantly perhaps, Johnson & Johnson.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON’S CASE
Johnson & Johnson argued that the Missouri courts unfairly combined the cases of nearly two dozen women from several states instead of trying cases individually, which Johnson & Johnson argued caused “jury confusion.” The company maintained that the huge plaintiffs’ damage award violated due process.
US SUPREME COURT RULES
The case ultimately made it to the US Supreme Court with Justices Alito and Kavanaugh not taking part in the decision because of potential conflicts of interest.
The Court was asked to hear Johnson & Johnson’s appeal, which the Court declined to do, effectively allowing the $2.1 billion judgment to stand.
Of course, this case will set a precedent for the other lawsuits pending in other jurisdictions filed by family members of users of the talcum powder who ended up with ovarian cancer.
OFF THE MARKET
Johnson & Johnson stopped selling its talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada in 2020 citing reduced demand “fueled my misinformation around the safety of the product and the constant barrage of litigation advertising.” The company is facing more than 21,000 lawsuits. More are expected to be filed by frequent Users of talcum powder who developed ovarian cancer.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com
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