California Woman Awarded Nearly $10M In Talc Powder Verdict
Patricia Schmitz was diagnosed with mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s talc baby powder for more than 60 years. She applied it along with Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet products after showering. Now the companies will have to pay a combined $9.6 million to compensate for her devastating diagnosis. This is Johnson & Johnson’s eleventh loss in court since it first began defending talc injury lawsuits in 2016.
Why Are People Suing Johnson & Johnson?
When a company sells a product, consumers are protected by their state’s product liability laws. Companies can be strictly liable for any injuries that their defective products cause. Thousands of people have filed product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuits claim, among other things, that:
- Johnson & Johnson baby powder is defective because it is contaminated with asbestos
- The company knowingly sold a defective product
- Consumers weren’t warned about the health risks associated with Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, and
- The company knew that its product might be contaminated with asbestos.
Several juries have agreed that consumers should be paid for harm caused by Johnson & Johnson products. According to Sherwin Arzani, a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, “These lawsuits will get very pricy for Johnson & Johnson. It seems like their is a nationwide consensus that J&J knew the risks and chose to not disclose it.”
Johnson & Johnson Blames Loss on Evidentiary, Procedural Issues
A California jury determined that Johnson & Johnson was 40 percent liable for Schmitz’s cancer diagnosis. She used the company’s popular talcum baby powder as part of her hygiene routine for decades. There is evidence showing that the company’s talc powder caused cancer because it was contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos, when inhaled or absorbed by the body, can cause mesothelioma.
Johnson & Johnson blames this loss in court on “serious procedural and evidentiary errors in the proceeding.” The company moved for a mistrial at several points throughout the litigation. They believe that they have “strong grounds for appeal.” Attorneys for the company believe that these errors “unfairly prejudiced the defense.”
According to reports, two pieces of evidence caused jurors to side with Schmitz. These included:
- Electron-microscope photographs which showed asbestos fibers in Johnson & Johnson talc samples, and
- Internal documents revealing the company was well aware of the asbestos contamination issue.
Despite this, Johnson & Johnson denies that the product causes cancer.
Eleven Juries Have Sided With Talc Powder Victims, Seven Have Not
Johnson & Johnson has been named in more than 14,000 talc powder injury lawsuits. Several of these cases have already gone to trial or been resolved. The company has lost eleven times and prevailed seven times. Three juries have deadlocked and been unable to agree on a verdict. Four plaintiffs have agreed to settle their disputes with Johnson & Johnson privately.
The company has appealed most of the verdicts that haven’t gone their way. Some of those results have been overturned, while others have been affirmed. Juries have been split. However, more have decided in favor of injured plaintiffs than the multinational corporation.
At least two dozen more Johnson & Johnson talc powder injury lawsuits are scheduled to begin this year.