Late in the week, New Jersey jurors took over two hours to deliberate whether pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, should be liable to pay punitive damages to four plaintiffs; in which, claim that the lifetime use of their talc-based products caused them to develop pleural mesothelioma.
All Pleural Mesothelioma Patients Testified To Be Lifelong Consumers
Here the four plaintiffs testified to being lifelong consumers of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower-To-Shower products. The items produced by Johnson & Johnson claimed to have been used by the plaintiffs over most of their lifetime. In court, these items were identified as talc-based products that have been on the market for many decades. Talc or talcum powder, is a mineral found in the earth that is mined to be used primarily in baby powder, and other cosmetic or pharmaceutical goods.
Pleural mesothelioma is caused exclusively from exposure to asbestos fibers or particles. The asbestos particulates once inhaled can settle in the lining of the lungs and can lay dormant over long periods of time. Consistent exposure to asbestos can cause the buildup of fibers that get trapped in the lining of not only the lungs, but also the lining of the abdomen, which eventually could develop into onset pleural mesothelioma.
Johnson & Johnson Claim Their Product Is Asbestos Free
At times, when the talc mineral is found in the earth, the deposit site could possibly be naturally contaminated with asbestos. In the United States, talc mines are scheduled to be monitored or tested for traces of asbestos before, during, and after mining for the mineral is done. Johnson & Johnson claims that for over forty years, they have complied with regulations and have monitored the talc they use in the products they sell and it is not prone to cause pleural mesothelioma.
According to reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recorded that over 33,000 baby powder items were recalled by Johnson & Johnson in the fall of 2018. The report shows the reason for the company’s product recall was because of traces of chrysotile asbestos were found in the baby powder manufactured by the company. In response, company representatives claim that third-party lab tests produced results from testing the talc showed that there were no traces of chrysotile asbestos found in their product. Johnson & Johnson also stated that the tests were done with the same bottles had been recalled as a safety precaution.
On the stand, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky testified that the company took extensive measures to make sure that its powder products containing talc were safe and did not contain asbestos. Representatives of the pharmaceutical company stood fast to defend the notion that they have tested the talc used in their products for over forty years; therefore, claiming their baby powder does not cause cancer or specifically pleural mesothelioma, does not contain asbestos, and is safe for consumer use. On the other hand, the New Jersey jury did not side with the representative or CEO and thereby found the company responsible for the plaintiffs’ contraction of pleural mesothelioma.
Punitive Damages Awarded To Plaintiffs Set Under New Jersey Law
Initially, the jury was adamant to award 750 million dollars in punitive damages to the plaintiffs who had contracted pleural mesothelioma, but under New Jersey state law the monetary damages amount awarded cannot exceed more than five times the amount of the compensatory damages amount awarded to the plaintiffs. In the first phase of the trial, another jury awarded over 37.5 million dollars in compensatory funds for the harm the plaintiffs suffered. In compliance, state court judge Ana V. Viscomi reduced the amount to 186.5 million dollars, which still falls under the limits set for punitive damages awarded to the plaintiff[s] under New Jersey state law.
Numerous Lawsuits Ahead
Counsel for Johnson & Johnson announced after the trial that they intend to appeal this case. Currently, there are over 16,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson that are based on the premise that the company did not warn consumers that some of their products contained or could contain asbestos. On the contrary, the pharmaceutical company still holds steadfast that their talc does not cause cancer, pleural mesothelioma, and is free from asbestos contamination, according to compiled studies and research. Despite the statements made and the testimony presented in other cases, a federal criminal investigation is now looming over Johnson & Johnson to see if they were transparent or forthcoming about the knowledge of asbestos contamination in their products.
Read more about Johnson and Johnson cases here.