Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Before the $4.7 Billion Baby Powder Verdict, There Was One in Humboldt

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 2:31 PM

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By now, you’ve probably heard about Reuters’ investigative bombshell showing that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos while the company publicly insisted on the “safety and purity” of its iconic product.

If this is news to you, check out the story here, which relies on scores of interviews and internal company documents. Johnson and Johnson currently faces more than 11,000 plaintiffs in a swath of lawsuits who allege the company’s talc contained asbestos and caused their ovarian cancers and mesotheliomas. And this is after a July verdict in Missouri that awarded $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women suffering from ovarian cancer, which came about a year after a California jury awarded $417 million to another woman with ovarian cancer.

Johnson and Johnson has denied the allegations — and Reuters’ report — saying that decades of scientific testing and regulatory approvals show its talc to be safe and asbestos free.

But wading through all this reporting, what you probably won’t see is that just last month a Humboldt County jury cleared Johnson and Johnson of liability in a lawsuit brought by Carla Allen, who alleged her mesothelioma — a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure — was caused by prolonged use of Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder. The case had caused significant interest in the Humboldt County Courthouse, spanning seven weeks and featuring a variety of out-of-town lawyers.

After the verdict, the company released a brief statement: “While we deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from any form of cancer, the science and facts show that her disease was not caused by her use of our talcum-based products.”

According to verdict forms from the case, the jury found that Allen was exposed to asbestos from Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder due to a “manufacturing defect,” but that Allen failed to prove that was a “substantial factor” in causing her mesothelioma.
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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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