Today a jury in New Jersey Superior Court Middlesex County awarded $750 million dollars in punitive damages to four plaintiffs whose mesothelioma was caused by exposure to Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-contaminated Baby Powder and other consumer talc products. The jury, deliberating just blocks from Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, was unanimous in finding that the plaintiffs had proven by clear and convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted maliciously or in wanton and willful disregard of the plaintiffs’ rights.
This was the second phase of the trial, with a different jury awarding the four plaintiffs a combined total of $37.3 million in compensatory damages in September 2019. That jury, in what was the first consolidated case against J&J by plaintiffs suffering from mesothelioma, found that exposure to asbestos from J & J’s talc powder products, including to its Baby Powder when they were infants, substantially contributed to causing each of the four plaintiffs’ peritoneal mesothelioma. The jury also made findings that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products were defective because the products lacked adequate warnings, failed to use safer alternative designs, and deviated from J&J’s own design specifications, and standards.
During the punitive damages trial, which began with opening statements on January 13, 2020, plaintiffs called Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky to testify over Johnson & Johnson’s objections. Mr. Gorsky was asked, among other things, about his comments to the media in the wake of the announcement in October of 2019 that the US Food and Drug Administration found asbestos in its Baby Powder. In addition to Mr. Gorsky’s testimony, the plaintiffs presented the jury with the prior testimony of J&J’s corporate representatives as well as internal Johnson & Johnson documents (previously sealed and marked confidential), that revealed findings of asbestos in talc dating back to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and subsequent decades. Documents also revealed that J&J could have replaced the talc in its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower with corn starch, a safer alternative to talc, but failed to do so because of marketing and litigation concerns. Instead of removing its cancer-causing products from the market, replacing the products with a safer alternative, or warning its customers about the presence of asbestos in its products, Johnson & Johnson adopted testing methods that were not capable of detecting asbestos in the most sensitive manner. Johnson & Johnson then used its misleading test results to publicly claim its products never contained asbestos.
After closing arguments finished today, the jury deliberated for only two hours before returning its $750 million award. In each of the four cases, the jury awarded $93,750,000 against Johnson & Johnson and $93,750,000 against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., the J&J subsidiary responsible for selling Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder.
The plaintiffs were represented at trial by Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg, Chris Panatier of Simon Greenstone, and Chris Placitella of Cohen Placitella.
After the verdict, Levy Konigsberg partner Moshe Maimon stated: “The jury’s verdict was a loud repudiation of J&J’s decades of excuses – including the most recent by CEO Alex Grosky – and its attempts to compromise the scientific findings of asbestos in its baby powder – including those recently released by the US Food and Drug Administration. With a perfectly safe cornstarch product on the market, there is no excuse for Johnson & Johnson to continue to endanger consumers, particularly babies, with its talc products.”
This is the latest in a series of victories for clients represented by Levy Konigsberg in mesothelioma cases against Johnson & Johnson. Those other cases were tried on behalf of: Stephen Lanzo in New Jersey - $117 million, Teresa Leavitt in California - $29 million, and Donna Olson in New York - $325 million (this case is currently awaiting final review on appeal).
For more information, please contact Moshe Maimon, firstname.lastname@example.org, at Levy Konigsberg LLP, 1-800-988-8005.