Legal action against Johnson & Johnson is expected to increase after a woman who developed cancer after years of using the company’s products was awarded $29 million by an Oakland, California jury. Teresa Leavitt filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical and health & beauty products giant after she developed mesothelioma, something that she claims occurred because of her use of Johnson & Johnson products.
Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the recent verdict, saying it has no bearing on the “medical, scientific, or regulatory conclusions about a product.”
Furthermore, the company claims it has tested its products and found no evidence of asbestos in its talcum powder products.
According to Ernie W. Knewitz, vice president of media relations for J&J, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of consumers and maintaining their trust in our products.”
Knewitz claims that “decades” of global independent lab studies conclude that Johnson’s Baby Powder contains no asbestos. Knewitz also pointed to a 2010 US FDA survey of a range of cosmetic products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and the source talc used in the product, and confirmed that it did not contain asbestos.
The agency reaffirmed these finding in a March 5, 2019 statement saying it had “found no traces of asbestos contamination using the most sensitive techniques available.”
Thousands of Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson Still Pending
This is one of several verdicts the company has lost and plans to appeal, including a 2018 ruling by a Missouri jury that Johnson & Johnson should pay 22 women with ovarian cancer nearly $5 billion.
There are currently as many as 13,000 lawsuits related to Johnson & Johnson powder products making their way through the US court system.
Additionally, the company is being investigated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concerning its disclosures about the asbestos content in its products.
According to a recent Reuters report, the company knew asbestos was present in its products, but failed to warn the public or remove the products from the market.
Laws regarding the release of information concerning cosmetic products are hazy. There aren’t any laws requiring companies inform the public of adverse events related to cosmetic or personal care products, but there is a law requiring that all talc-containing products be asbestos free.
Johnson & Johnson claims it did not break the law, but internal memos revealed during the recent trials seem to prove otherwise.
Dangers of Talc
Regardless of any effort made by government agencies and companies to offer safe products, talc continues to be found in cosmetics, powders and personal care products, as well as in paints and industrial materials.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson claiming its talc-based powder products are contaminated with asbestos and that use of the powders caused them to develop mesothelioma and reproductive cancers.
In some of these cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that Johnson & Johnson knew its products were contaminated with asbestos. They also claim they can prove this through internal company documents that reveal knowledge of the material in its products.
The scientific community has yet to establish a definitive link between the use of talcum powder and cancer, but studies have found that some women who use these products in the genital area tend to have a heightened risk for cancer.
Johnson & Johnson has said it would cooperate with all government inquiries and provide any documents related to the investigations to the Department of Justice, the SEC, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.