J&J Ordered to Pay $45M in Talc Baby Powder Lawsuit

Legislation & Litigation

An Illinois jury’s verdict orders defendants Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue to pay $45 million to the family of a woman who died of mesothelioma. The plaintiffs in the case were the family of Theresa Garcia whose lawsuit claimed J&J’s talc-based baby powder was tainted with asbestos. 

The jury found Kenvue 70% responsible for Garcia’s death and J&J for 30%. Kenvue is a former consumer healthcare division of J&J and became a fully independent company in August 2023.

Theresa Garcia died only 6 months after receiving her mesothelioma diagnosis. Her family says she frequently used J&J’s talc-based baby powder, which they believe led to her death in July 2020.

Garcia used the product on herself and later on her children. Her lawyers claim the amount of powder she inhaled throughout her life caused her mesothelioma.

In a statement from the Garcia’s law firm, attorney Jessica Dean of Dallas’ Dean Omar Branham Shirley noted: “The defendants knew that talc contains asbestos impurities that were mined and put in the bottles of baby powder J&J sold. Not only did the defendants’ negligence and deceit cheat loyal customers like Theresa, but their deception has ultimately robbed a family of their mother.” 

J&J plans to appeal the ruling, according to a statement from J&J’s Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas: “The verdict in this trial is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.”

Garcia’s family’s lawsuit is one of more than 50,000 talc lawsuits J&J faces. These suits claim the company’s talcum powder is responsible for asbestos-related cancers including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

J&J’s Talc History and Asbestos Dangers

According to a Reuters exposé, J&J was aware that its talc-based products were contaminated with asbestos but did nothing to fix the problem. Lab tests prove that J&J’s talcum powder was tainted with asbestos as far back as the early 1970s. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found asbestos in one of the company’s products causing a major recall in 2019. Many large retailers across the country pulled the products off of store shelves. 

J&J ended global sales of its talc-based baby powder in 2023. The company switched to a cornstarch-based product. J&J says it made the change because of declining sales and contends that its products are safe.

Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals. It’s common for talc deposits to be contaminated with asbestos. If inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers can become trapped in the body and may cause inflammation, scarring and DNA changes to cells that can lead to cancer. Asbestos exposure from contaminated talc can occur when using power or other products such as makeup and children’s toys.

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