A US jury found the company’s talcum powder-based products were defective and it had failed to warn consumers of subsequent health risks.

A worker closes a glass cabinet of Johnson & Johnson baby powder bottles at a medical store in Kolkata
A worker closes a glass cabinet of Johnson & Johnson baby powder bottles at a medical store in Kolkata (Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters)

The verdict, in California Superior Court in Oakland, US, marks the latest defeat for the health care conglomerate facing more than 13,000 talcum powder-related lawsuits nationwide.

Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal, citing “serious procedural and evidentiary errors” in the course of the trial, saying lawyers for the woman had fundamentally failed to show its baby powder contains asbestos. The company did not provide further details of the alleged errors during the trial.

“We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company denies that its talcum powder causes cancer, saying numerous studies and tests by regulators worldwide have shown that its product is safe and asbestos-free.

The lawsuit was brought by Terry Leavitt, who said she used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower — another powder containing talc sold by the company in the past — in the 1960s and 1970s and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. It was the first of more than a dozen Johnson & Johnson powder cases scheduled for trial in 2019. The nine-week trial began on January 7 and included testimony from nearly a dozen experts on both sides.

The jury deliberated for two days before delivering its verdict.

Jurors found that company’s talcum powder-based products used by Leavitt were defective and that the company had failed to warn consumers of the health risks, awarding $29.4 million in damages to Leavitt and her husband. The jury declined to award punitive damages.

In 11 cases so far alleging asbestos contamination in talcum powder, three have resulted in wins for plaintiffs, awarding damages as high as $4.69 billion in a July 2018 multi-plaintiff ovarian cancer verdict. Johnson & Johnson won three other cases and another five ended in hung juries. 

Johnson & Johnson has appealed all of the plaintiff verdicts, and the company said it is confident the verdicts would be overturned on appeal.

Source: Reuters