J&J Hit with $260M Verdict in Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Trial

An Oregon jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $260 million in damages to a woman who claims the healthcare giant’s talc-based baby powder caused her to develop a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. This landmark verdict comes amidst J&J’s ongoing efforts to resolve the avalanche of lawsuits it faces over the alleged link between its talcum powder products and serious health issues, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

The Oregon Jury’s $260 Million Talcum Powder Verdict

Kyung Lee, a 49-year-old mother of three and a resident of Beaverton, Oregon, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, in August 2023. During her talcum powder trial, her attorneys argued that her prolonged use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder, which allegedly contained asbestos, a known carcinogen, was the primary cause of her life-threatening illness.

During the trial, Lee’s attorneys painted a poignant picture of a family devastated by the consequences of using a product they believed to be safe. “For years, Kyung and her family used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder not having any idea it could lead to a life-ending illness,” said Lee’s lead attorney. “Today, Ms. Lee was able to see justice and secure a future for her family after she is gone.”

Last week, the 4th Judicial District Circuit Court in Portland, Oregon awarded Lee a total of $260 million in damages. The jury’s decision includes $60 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish the company for reckless disregard of consumer safety.

Johnson & Johnson Denies Talcum Powder Cancer Link

Despite the Oregon jury’s verdict, Johnson & Johnson has maintained its stance that talcum powder is safe and does not cause cancer. The company’s legal team argued vehemently that Lee’s illness was likely caused by exposure to asbestos from other sources, such as a textile factory near her childhood home in South Korea, rather than from the use of its talc-based products.

J&J Plans to Appeal Verdict

Erik Haas, J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, asserted that the Oregon verdict is “irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming talc is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.” The company has long touted the safety of its talc products, citing numerous studies that it claims support its position. J&J has stated that it will immediately appeal this latest talcum powder cancer verdict, expressing confidence that it will be overturned.

The Ongoing Talcum Powder Cancer Litigation

The Oregon verdict is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle surrounding Johnson & Johnson’s once-popular talcum powder products. The company is currently pursuing a $6.48 billion settlement plan to resolve the approximately 61,000 pending talc-related lawsuits it faces nationwide. While the majority of these claims involve allegations that the use of talc-based products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder, led to the development of ovarian cancer, a growing number, like Lee’s, allege a link between talc exposure and mesothelioma.

Outcomes in Past Talcum Powder Trials

Johnson & Johnson has had a mixed record in these talcum powder trials, with some notable losses, including a $2.1 billion decision in Missouri awarded to 22 women who claimed the baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. However, the company has also secured a number of defense verdicts in recent trials.

J&J’s Proposed Bankruptcy Settlement

In a bid to resolve the vast majority of the talc-related lawsuits it faces, Johnson & Johnson is pursuing a “Plan of Reorganization” that would establish a $6.48 billion settlement fund in bankruptcy. This ambitious proposal aims to resolve 99.75% of all pending talc lawsuits against the company and its affiliates in the United States. As part of this plan, J&J needs to secure the support of at least 75% of the remaining plaintiffs in order to proceed with a “prepackaged” Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. This would effectively shut off future claims and prevent individuals from opting out of the deal, providing the company with a path to resolve the vast majority of its talc-related liabilities.

The Future of the Talcum Powder Cancer Litigation

The Oregon talcum powder verdict serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing legal and reputational challenges Johnson & Johnson faces regarding its talcum powder products. The sheer scale of the damages awarded to Kyung Lee underscores the gravity of the allegations and the potential for future trials to yield similarly significant outcomes. The sizable verdict may embolden other plaintiffs to pursue their own legal actions against Johnson & Johnson, potentially making them less inclined to accept the terms of the proposed $6.48 billion settlement. This could further complicate the company’s efforts to resolve the majority of the talc-related lawsuits it faces.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Information

Talcum powder lawsuits are alleging a link between the widely used baby powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Learn more by clicking on the button.
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