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Cancer causing talc costs Johnson & Johnson $260 million at trial
Coleman Legal LLP
June 07, 2024
A Portland jury awarded $260 million to a woman who contracted mesothelioma from Johnson and Johnson talc. The case is part of numerous lawsuits alleging asbestos contamination in J&J talc products.

Portland Jury Awards $260M to Mesothelioma victim from Johnson and Johnson talc exposure

A Portland jury has awarded a woman $260 million (€238 million) after she contracted mesothelioma from the inhalation of Johnson and Johnson talc powder. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer which can arise due to asbestos exposure, which is allegedly present in J&J talc. The payout was split into punitive damages of $200 million and a compensatory payment of $60 million.

A share of these damages will go to the plaintiff’s husband. This lawsuit is one of many against the pharmaceutical giant. Johnson and Johnson is pursuing a settlement worth $6.48 billion, ending most of the 61,000 talc-related claims it faces. The company would facilitate this payout through a prepackaged bankruptcy.

Only a small fraction of these cases are founded on a mesothelioma diagnosis; most have already settled. The majority of plaintiffs are suffering from ovarian cancer. J&J’s bankruptcy plan will only be accepted if they have the approval of at least 75% of the plaintiffs with outstanding claims.

On two previous occasions, the Court has refused to approve the company’s bankruptcy scheme, which would end all active claims and prevent anyone from issuing proceedings in the future. Johnson and Johnson believes its latest proposal will receive widespread support from claimants.

However, they are facing pushback from one cohort who believe the proposal is a “fraudulent” use of the bankruptcy mechanism and have launched a class action lawsuit to prevent it. Although this is a win for many victims, Johnson and Johnson has confirmed they will appeal the decision.

The company insists the finding “is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer”, according to their worldwide vice president of litigation, Erik Haas. Kyung Lee, the claimant, was only 48 years old when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year. At trial, Ms Lee argued her illness was caused by asbestos inhalation from J&J talc, which she frequently came into contact with for more than 30 years.

Her mother used it on her as an infant and later when she began to wear deodorant containing talc. Johnson and Johnson argued that it occurred because Ms Lee grew up close to a factory, which exposed her to asbestos.

Cases claiming injury from talc have had mixed results. In 2021, one award of over $2 billion was shared amongst 22 plaintiffs diagnosed with ovarian cancer. However, a claimant with ovarian cancer also lost her case against J&J this year. The company insists that its talc is not carcinogenic and that science supports this stance.

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Clodagh Magennis

Clodagh Magennis

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