May 30, 2019 – Marking yet another major mesothelioma verdict against Johnson & Johnson, a New York City jury has awarded damages totaling $325 million dollars to Levy Konigsberg clients Donna Olson and her husband, Robert Olson, for Mrs. Olson’s mesothelioma – a rare cancer that was caused by asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. Donna Olson and her husband were represented by a team comprised of lawyers from Levy Konigsberg LLP and Maune Raichle Hartley French & Mudd, LLC. This marks the first verdict by a New York City jury in a case involving asbestos exposure from Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder. The damages awarded by the jury include $20 million for Mrs. Olson’s past and future pain and suffering, $5 million for Mr. Olson’s loss of consortium due to his wife’s illness, and $300M for punitive damages.
As in past trials, Johnson & Johnson argued that its Baby Powder and other talcum powder products never contained asbestos. However, the jury rejected this claim, finding that Johnson & Johnson was aware for decades that its talcum powder contained asbestos, yet failed warn consumers like Mrs. Olson about the danger. The jury also found that Mrs. Olson’s routine use of Johnson’s Baby Powder over many years exposed her to substantial levels of asbestos and caused her to develop mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Over the course of the four-month trial, the New York City jury was shown numerous internal documents that revealed that Johnson & Johnson was aware of asbestos in the talc used to manufacture Johnson’s Baby Powder and J&J’s Shower to Shower products as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than warn consumers or replace their talc with an alternative ingredient – like cornstarch – J&J instead adopted testing methods that were not capable of detecting the asbestos. J&J then used these flawed test results to represent to the public and the FDA that their products “never” contained asbestos. The jury also found that Johnson & Johnson’s wanton and reckless misconduct was clear, unequivocal and convincing, and awarded punitive damages of $300M to punish J&J for its reprehensible actions and deter such misconduct in the future.
The evidence and expert testing relied upon by the jury was similar to that presented in two prior trials where a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million and a California jury awarded $29.5 million in damages against Johnson & Johnson for causing mesothelioma. The plaintiffs in both cases were represented by attorneys from Levy Konigsberg LLP. Today’s verdict marks the third straight trial victory by Levy Konigsberg against Johnson & Johnson for mesothelioma caused by the asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder.
The Olsons’ trial team was led by Levy Konigsberg LLP partner Jerome Block (lead trial counsel) and Christian Hartley from Maune Raichle Hartley French & Mudd, LLC (“MRHFM”). Suzanne Ratcliffe and Margaret Samadi, attorneys with MRHFM, along with other LK attorneys, also represent the Olsons and played important roles in this historic verdict.
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