Mesothelioma Baby Powder Lawsuit Costs J&J $18.8 Million

Legislation & Litigation

A jury has ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay $18.8 million in monetary damages to a California man who developed mesothelioma after long-time exposure to the company’s talc-based baby powder.

The decision was made following a six-week trial, the first centered around talcum powder that J&J has encountered in nearly two years. This comes as the company continues to settle thousands of other similar suits.

Emory Hernandez Valadez, 24, said he had been using talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder since childhood. Because of Valadez’s failing health, the case was cleared for trial. It was an exception to the court order putting all litigation on hold following J&J’s Chapter 11 filing in 2022. 

During closing arguments, Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers claimed there was no evidence that Valadez’s mesothelioma, which developed in the lining of his heart, was caused by talc contaminated with asbestos fibers. Erik Haas, J&J’s vice president of litigation, released a statement calling the decision “irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.” Haas said the company plans to appeal.

J&J’s Legal Issues

Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of similar lawsuits by people who say they developed mesothelioma or other cancers and illnesses from the company’s asbestos-contaminated products. Talc can become tainted with toxic asbestos since both minerals naturally occur together. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases decades later. 

LTL Management, a subsidiary of J&J, filed for bankruptcy in April 2023. The company agreed to resolve all current and future cases through an $8.9 billion settlement

“This verdict will sway people not to be inclined to accept what they can get under that $8.9 billion settlement if they can get $18 million at trial,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is not good for J&J, to be sure. It may discombobulate the settlement negotiations.”

Johnson & Johnson insists its baby powder and other products are safe. The company pulled its talc-based powders from store shelves in the U.S. and Canada in 2020 over diminishing sales and what J&J calls “misinformation” about the safety of the product. Johnson & Johnson has since switched to a cornstarch-based baby powder. 

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