Many people are asking how the recent decision of Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) to remove talc from baby powder will affect present and future claims for mesothelioma based on exposure to asbestos from Johnson’s Baby Powder. Levy Konigsberg is proud of the firm’s role in causing J&J to remove talc from its baby powder. J&J’s decision comes after a string of wins for Levy Konigsberg’s mesothelioma clients in talc baby powder lawsuits. The firm’s landmark mesothelioma verdicts against J&J include the Lanzo case in New Jersey ($117 million), the Olson case in New York ($325 million), the consolidated Barden trial in New Jersey ($750 million), as well as verdicts in California including the Leavitt case. Here are three important facts about the continuing mesothelioma litigation against J&J:
1. J&J Remains Liable for Using Talc in Baby Powder for More than 100 years.
J&J’s decision to remove talc from baby powder does not shield the company from liabilities arising from its past use of talc in baby powder. J&J’s use of talc in baby powder dates back to the early 20th Century. Asbestos is a mineral mined from the earth and is commonly contaminated with asbestos. J&J knew that the asbestos mineral known as tremolite was a contaminant in its talc as early as the 1950s. By the 1960s, J&J was weighing the risk of litigation, and internally acknowledging the public “furor” that would result if it ever became known that asbestos minerals (such as tremolite) were contained in its talc. In the early 1970s, Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, as well as an FDA contractor, performed scientific testing that identified asbestos in J&J’s talc. They immediately warned J&J about the problem, beginning a fifty-year battle between J&J and the public health community about the use of talc in baby and body powder. J&J always told the government and the public that there was never asbestos in its talc powder, despite repeated laboratory findings showing that the talc did contain asbestos.
2. Corn Starch Was Always an Asbestos-Free Alternative to Talc
J&J will now be selling only baby powder made from corn starch in the United States and Canada. Corn starch does not contain asbestos and does not even have to be tested for asbestos. Also, corn starch is biodegradable and — unlike talc and asbestos — is easily dissolved in the body. J&J knew about the benefits of using corn starch to make baby powder as early as 1908. But J&J had a financial interest in continuing to use talc. The company purchased talc mines in Vermont in the 1960s so that it could economically mine and mill its own talc for use in baby powder. In the 1970s, while J&J was in possession of internal testing showing asbestos in its talc, the company characterized corn starch as only a “contingency plan”, which meant J&J would only replace talc with corn starch if forced by the government to do so. Although J&J began selling baby powder made from corn starch in the 1980s, the company continued to sell the classic talc-based baby powder on the same shelves in the same stores. J&J never educated the public about the issues of asbestos in talc so that consumers could make an informed health decision to use corn starch or to not use baby powder at all. As a result, until very recently, J&J’s iconic talc-based baby powder was the dominant market leader and millions of people were unknowingly exposed to dangerous talc and asbestos particles.
3. J&J Cannot Avoid Punitive Damages Because it Removed Talc from Baby Powder
J&J made and sold talc containing asbestos for decades, without providing any warning to customers. They did this knowing that they had an asbestos-free alternative (corn starch) that they could have easily used. The company knew that asbestos caused cancer, including mesothelioma. J&J cannot avoid future awards of punitive damages because it has finally stopped selling baby powder with talc. J&J’s past conduct has caused people to develop mesothelioma. That conduct is punishable under the law. One of the purposes of punitive damages is to punish companies for willful or reckless conduct that causes harm (including death). Another purpose of punitive damages is to deter J&J, and other companies, from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Although J&J has stopped selling baby powder with asbestos, the company still must be deterred from engaging in similar conduct in the future. This includes deterring J&J from ever again deciding to sell baby powder with talc, as well as deterring J&J from putting profits before safety in its manufacture and sale of other consumer products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Our law firm is pleased that J&J has finally and belatedly decided to remove talc from baby powder. But it is important for people to understand that this decision does not stop present or future mesothelioma lawsuits caused by the use of asbestos-containing talc baby powder, nor does it stop J&J from being punished with punitive damages. J&J announced that it will continue to fight these lawsuits in court. Led by Moshe Maimon and Jerome Block, who have served as lead counsel in mesothelioma victories against J&J, Levy Konigsberg will continue to be relentless in its fight against J&J on behalf of the firm’s brave and courageous clients who developed mesothelioma.
Levy Konigsberg has won over $1 billion dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of victims who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. If you have or a loved one has developed mesothelioma or another cancer from asbestos, contact the firm for a free consultation by calling the phone number on this page, completing the website form or having a “live chat” with the firm now.