Texas Personal Injury Law Blog

$117 Million Awarded Against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys in Talc Asbestos Trial

talcum powderEarlier this week, a New Jersey state jury ordered Johnson & Johnson and Imerys to pay $80 million in punitive damages after finding that the pharmaceutical company and its talc supplier acted with reckless indifference in selling talcum powder contaminated with asbestos, contributing to a man’s development of mesothelioma.

The jury awarded $55 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $25 million against Imerys. This verdict comes a week after the same jury found that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys officials knew their talc contained asbestos and ordered them to pay $37 million in compensatory damages. Both companies were found by the jury to have acted in wanton and willful disregard of the rights of plaintiff Stephen Lanzo III and his wife.

Decades-long Exposure to J&J Talcum Powder Products

Lanzo claimed he used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder, generously during grooming from 1972 to 2003. During this time, he said he was exposed to asbestos by inhaling particles from the powders and ultimately developed mesothelioma in 2016.

Plaintiff lawyers urged jurors that punitive damages necessary. Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg in New York explained in his final remarks that punitive damages for both companies were warranted because they created and sold a product knowing it could put users at fatal risk, and failed to warn users of its products about possible health risks.

Johnson & Johnson Found Liable For Asbestos in Talc Products

The ruling against Johnson & Johnson is the first time a jury has supported a consumer’s claim that the company’s baby powder causes mesothelioma. “The message to J&J is to stop selling this product because it’s dangerous and can kill people,” said Joseph Satterley, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers. For years, Johnson & Johnson has been dealing with numerous talcum powder lawsuits from women who blame its baby powder for the development of ovarian cancer.

During the Lanzo trial, evidence from 1969 showed a J&J research scientist noted in a confidential memo that tests at the time found trace asbestos in talc used in their baby powder. New Jersey law requires jurors to assess how much responsibility Johnson & Johnson and Imerys hold for Lanzo’s injuries:

  • Johnson & Johnson: 70%
  • Imerys Talc America: 30%

Johnson & Johnson insists they intend to appeal the verdict. Spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in an email statement, “We will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder and immediately begin our appeal.’’

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Priyanka Kasnavia

Priyanka Kasnavia is an online marketing specialist who has been working at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., for over a year. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 2017 with a degree in Strategic Communication and has been accepted to the University of Houston Law Center starting fall of 2018. Priyanka's expertise centers on search engine optimization and content creation.