Johnson & Johnson set to pay $120 million in New York baby powder case

pharmafile | November 23, 2020 | News story | Sales and Marketing  

A New York judge has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $120 million to a woman and her husband after she blamed the occurrence of her cancer on her use of the company’s baby powder. 

Like many other similar cases, the woman blamed the baby powder for exposing her to asbestos, which is a carcinogen.

Judge Geralrd Lebovits reduced the initial payout from $325 million. The current amount included $15 million of compensatory damages and $105 million in punitive damages. The judge concluded that the company had for years been either knowingly deceitful about, or willfully blind to, the potential health risks of its talc products to maintain its market share and profit. 

A lawyer for the family said they were satisfied with the result; the woman’s cancer is now in the advanced stages. 

Johnson and Johnson also responded to the case: “We deeply sympathise with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important. We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”

This follows developments in October where Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay over $100 million to settle more than 1,000 lawsuits that blame the company’s talc baby powder for causing cancer. 

These new settlements were the first time that the company has settled cases in bulk, rather than dealing with them individually. The company struck the deals with several law firms but there were still 20,000 lawsuits pending. It is estimated resolving all these cases could cost as much as $10 billion.

Johnson & Johnson has been plagued by lawsuits over its talc based baby powder product. In August 2017, an Los Angeles jury hit the company for $417 million in damages over the case of Eva Echeverria, who alleged that the company’s baby powder had given her ovarian cancer after extended use on her genital area.

In 2018, Mark Lanier argued in court that the company’s officials knew internal tests showed asbestos was present in the powder, but didn’t disclose it for 40 years despite its links to mesothelioma. Lanier was initially awarded $4.7 billion, which was cut down to $2.1 billion. The company appealed this decision in 2020, but could not have the verdict overturned. The court’s statement in June read: “Plaintiffs proved with convincing clarity that defendants engaged in outrageous conduct because of an evil motive or reckless indifference. There was significant reprehensibility in defendants’ conduct.”

In North America, the company has swapped talc for cornstarch product in its baby powder, while it is being sold with the same formula in Europe.

Conor Kavanagh

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