Johnson & Johnson Asbestos Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson launched its baby powder product more than a century ago. But recently, this signature product has been involved in lawsuits claiming it’s contaminated with asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that has been linked to mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, lung cancer and more.
Does baby powder cause disease? That’s what the Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuits are all about.
Johnson & Johnson and Asbestos Exposure
Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where it still has its headquarters. Since then, it has expanded to become a multinational healthcare and pharmaceutical business with nearly $95 billion in revenue in 2022. But trouble began brewing for the company around 2018 and continues today.
Johnson & Johnson Products With Asbestos
The main focus of Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuits is the company’s baby powder. For decades, this product was made from talc, which is a mineral that’s often found in the same places as asbestos. There are processing techniques that can get rid of asbestos contamination in talc, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t strictly regulate this industry. In fact, concerns about asbestos contamination in talc products go back decades.
Health Risks of Asbestos
Asbestos exposure is known to cause various diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. It’s also been linked to ovarian, laryngeal, pharynx and stomach cancer. Long periods of exposure and higher concentrations are more likely to lead to asbestos-related diseases. In the case of Johnson & Johnson, mesothelioma and ovarian cancer are the top diseases linked to its baby powder product.
Johnson & Johnson Asbestos Lawsuits
In 2018, a report from the news agency Reuters claimed Johnson & Johnson talc-based products not only contained asbestos, but that the company knew of this contamination for decades and didn’t report it to the FDA. Since the Reuters report, many asbestos lawsuits have been filed and billions of dollars awarded to victims.
The report from Reuters set off a firestorm. It even caught the attention of the FDA, which began conducting ongoing tests of cosmetic products for asbestos. In October of 2019, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled a batch of talc-based products after FDA testing found asbestos in one sample. Another sample tested negative. The company responded that the FDA’s finding was of sub-trace amounts in a single bottle, and that its own third-party tests did not find asbestos.
The Reuters investigation found that Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and talc-based products had sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos since the 1970s. Many of the documents haven’t been made public. But the company maintains that there is no asbestos in Johnson & Johnson products, and they are safe.
Compensation and Settlements
The earliest Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuit may have been as far back as 1999. That lawsuit was dropped, but after the Reuters report, many more were filed. Let’s take a look at a timeline for an easy view of recent compensation:
- July 2018: A Missouri court orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who say the company’s talc-based products gave them ovarian cancer. The company appeals, and the award is reduced to $2 billion in 2021.
- March 2019: A California jury awards a patient $29.4 million in a Johnson & Johnson mesothelioma lawsuit.
- February 2020: A New Jersey jury awards $750 million to four mesothelioma patients, which is reduced to $185 million on appeal.
- August 2020: A California jury awards a woman $26.5 million, which includes $20 million for her pain and suffering and $6.5 million for economic damages.
- October 2021: Johnson & Johnson creates a subsidiary, or a separate business that they still control, called LTL and files for bankruptcy protection under that name. While bankruptcy filings proceed, no new lawsuits can be filed.
- July 2023: In the first case since the bankruptcy filing, a California jury awards a mesothelioma patient $18.8 million, which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal.
- Present: Johnson & Johnson is still attempting to file bankruptcy and reach a deal to create an asbestos trust fund for all future lawsuits but has faced setbacks.
Johnson & Johnson Bankruptcy Filing
Filing for bankruptcy is a common tactic that asbestos companies have used to protect themselves from lawsuits. Bankruptcy proceedings put lawsuits on hold, and the company is allowed to create an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims rather than compensate each one individually. That means that Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuits were paused when it’s subsidiary, LTL, filed for bankruptcy in 2021.
The bankruptcy case is still ongoing, but recent rulings in July and September of 2023 have gone against Johnson & Johnson, denying the plan and dismissing the case. The September ruling re-opened the ability to file new lawsuits.
Johnson & Johnson’s Response
For its part, the company has always maintained that Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder asbestos claims are false. As mentioned, it has done independent testing that did not find asbestos in its products. It has also filed lawsuits against doctors who linked its products to asbestos diseases, claiming the studies were flawed.
Although it maintains it has no links to asbestos, Johnson & Johnson ended sales of its talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada in 2020. It announced in 2022 it would end sales worldwide, although retailers could continue to sell stock until it ran out. The company plans to sell a new, cornstarch-based baby powder instead.
Protecting Yourself From Asbestos
Today, most mesothelioma claims result from past workplace exposure, but you can be exposed to asbestos in other ways. While the use of asbestos in products is highly regulated, this deadly mineral isn’t completely banned in the U.S.
Many construction products contain asbestos, so it’s important to properly test and remove insulation, paneling and other materials if you’re renovating or remodeling your home. And in industries like cosmetics, asbestos may still sneak into products in the form of talc, which is used to absorb moisture and prevent caking—and is the focus of the recent Johnson & Johnson mesothelioma lawsuits.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know that it is directly linked to asbestos exposure. You may be able to get compensation for your medical bills and other pain and suffering. The law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen has decades of experience investigating these cases and fighting for victims in court. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
What is the connection between Johnson & Johnson and asbestos?
A 2018 report from the news agency Reuters resulted in an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which found trace amounts of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed claiming that the company’s talc-based products contain asbestos and cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
Is asbestos still present in Johnson & Johnson products?
In 2022, the FDA did not find any asbestos in Johnson & Johnson products it tested. The company has always maintained that its products do not contain asbestos and that it has verified this with its own third-party testing.
What health risks are associated with Johnson & Johnson asbestos exposure?
Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuits claim that repeated use of its talc-based products over time have led to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, another type of cancer. While the link between asbestos and these types of cancer is proven, the company maintains that its products don’t contain asbestos. Still, it has paid out billions to settle lawsuits regarding these health risks.
What steps is Johnson & Johnson taking to address the asbestos issue?
Johnson & Johnson has discontinued sales of its talc-based baby powder worldwide. It plans to sell a cornstarch-based product instead. However, the company has never admitted wrongdoing and maintains that its products have always been safe.
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