Johnson & Johnson recently announced that it set aside nearly $4 billion last year to resolve claims that the company’s talcum powder, sold for decades as a safe and effective product for babies and adults, contained harmful ingredients, like asbestos, that caused users to suffer cancer and other potentially life-threatening side effects. If you or someone you know used talcum powder and was subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, or another type of cancer, you are not alone. Contact us today to learn more about the ongoing talcum powder litigation and find out if you are eligible to file a legal claim for compensation.
Talcum powder is the refined form of talc, a clay mineral found in nature. As a powder, talc helps cut down on friction and absorbs moisture well, which makes it a valuable ingredient for use in baby and body powders. However, the FDA warns on its website that talc-based powders may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen commonly found near talc in the earth. During the mining process, some talc deposits become contaminated with asbestos, which is how the carcinogen makes its way into talcum powder products sold for use by consumers. And research shows that consumers who have used talcum powder products may face a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer or a rare, deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Even worse, there is evidence that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its talcum powder products contained small amounts of asbestos and deliberately kept this information from the public.
Johnson & Johnson’s announcement about setting aside $3.9 billion in litigation expenses for the fiscal year ending in January 2021 came in a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The report noted that the expenses were “primarily associated with talc related reserves and certain settlements,” suggesting that the company may be preparing to make large payments to resolve lawsuits brought by former talcum powder users. “Personal injury claims alleging that talc causes cancer have been made against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson arising out of the use of body powders containing talc, primarily JOHNSON’S Baby Powder,” the filing states. “The number of pending personal injury lawsuits continues to increase, and the Company continues to receive information with respect to potential costs and the anticipated number of cases.”
Johnson & Johnson has faced increased pressure to resolve the pending lawsuits and avoid having additional claims go before juries following several significant losses at trial. One of the largest talcum powder verdicts to date came in a case involving 22 women, all of whom claimed that Johnson’s talcum powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The original $4.7 billion verdict, handed down by a St. Louis jury, was later reduced to $2.1 billion on appeal. As of February 2021, there are now more than 27,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson, each of which involves similar allegations that the company misled consumers about the safety of its talc-based powders, which have been linked to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The majority of the talcum powder claims against Johnson & Johnson have been filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey and California and are consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Once a trusted household health and beauty product marketed as safe and gentle enough for babies, Johnson’s talcum powder has been removed from the market in the United States and Canada, amid increasing concerns about harmful asbestos contamination and the alleged risk of cancer. In early 2020, after paying out billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements related to lost legal battles over claims that its talcum powder causes cancer, Johnson & Johnson finally announced that it would no longer be selling talcum powder in North America, citing “declining sales” and “changes in consumer habits” as reasons for the decision.
Introduced in the U.S. in 1894, Johnson’s talcum powder has been used by millions of Americans over the past hundred-plus years. Even if Johnson & Johnson reaches settlement agreements with plaintiffs in some or all of the talcum powder claims already filed in the U.S. court system, it is likely that additional lawsuits will continue to be filed against the company for years to come, as consumers who routinely used Johnson’s talcum powder products on themselves and their loved ones continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other devastating side effects.