Couple awarded $37 million in talcum powder lawsuit

Eileen GuzmanApr 07, 2018

"Since the 1970s, talc used in consumer products has been required to be asbestos-free, so JOHNSON'S talc products do not contain asbestos, a substance classified as cancer-causing".

A jury in Middlesex County, New Jersey, awarded $30 million in compensatory damages on Thursday to a man who got cancer after decades of using talcum powder.

NJ Investment banker, Stephen Lanzo and his wife win $37M from Johnson and Johnson after jury agrees that its talcum powder led to asbestos minerals causing cancer. In five trials in Missouri involving ovarian cancer lawsuits, juries found J&J liable four times and awarded the plaintiffs a total of $307M.

On top of the $37 million already awarded the jury could award punitive damages next week, which are generally assessed as punishment for unethical or negligent actions.

Shares are down 1% premarket.

One verdict doesn't indicate a trend or a crisis, but could be worrying for J&J, said David Logan, law professor at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Deposits of talc are often located near naturally occurring asbestos, allowing for the risk of cross-contamination.

Johnson & Johnson will be liable for 70 percent of the damages with the other 30 percent falling on Imerys Talc, a supplier of the mineral.

In the nation's first trial where a jury linked Johnson & Johnson's talc products to mesothelioma, the company's efforts to discredit the plaintiffs' evidence simply fell flat.

The suit brought by Lanzo and his wife Kendra claims that the company knew the products were contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos but did nothing to warn the public. The decision is the first to find that Johnson & Johnson's baby powder led to a person being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Michael Brock of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., who represented Johnson & Johnson, said at closing that legitimate tests have never shown measurable amounts of asbestos in the company's talc, and Lanzo's mesothelioma came from other types of exposure, according to Bloomberg.

Lawyers for Johsnon & Johnson said Lanzo grew up in a house in Montclair that received an abatement 16 years ago for basement pipes wrapped in asbestos.

Throughout a lengthy trial that began in late January, attorneys for the Lanzos accused J&J of withholding information from consumers about the health risks of asbestos in its talc-based products for almost half a century.

Judge Ana Viscomi is presiding over the trial.

Imerys spokeswoman Gwen Myers said the company plans to appeal the verdict and is confident its talc did not cause Lanzo's cancer.

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