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Given the massive worldwide market share in the personal care products sector, Johnson and Johnson is no stranger to legal battles. Over the past couple years, the company has been facing hundreds of claims that their talcum powders, or baby powders, contain cancer causing agents.
Recently, a California jury, hearing the evidence at the first trial over a woman claiming she contracted mesothelioma as a result of using talcum power, ruled in Johnson and Johnson's favor. The plaintiff claimed that the products contained asbestos, which is a known cancer causing agent known to cause mesothelioma. Commenting on the ruling, Johnson and Johnson welcomed the verdict and affirmatively stated that their talcum powders do not contain asbestos. The company further asserted that this claim of talc causing mesothelioma was nothing more than a novel claim borne out of the recent losses in the lawsuits claiming that talc causes ovarian cancer.
What's in a Test?
One of the major struggles the jury was forced to grapple with in this case involves the usual battle of experts. Not surprisingly, each side's experts provided credible sounding scientific evidence.
While the defense experts asserted that there was no asbestos in the talcum powder used, plaintiff's experts asserted the opposite. The plaintiff's attorney believes that this difference is the result of different scientific tests being used, explaining that the test used by defendants was not sensitive enough to detect asbestos. In the end, the jury did not find plaintiff's claims convincing.
What This Verdict Means
Like the recent reversal in the ovarian cancer talcum powder lawsuit that resulted in a $417 million verdict , this case is sure to have an effect on the hundreds of other similar cases pending against J&J. The company is poised to vigorously defend these matters, particularly as talcum powder is a product the company has been selling since 1894, and one that sees widespread use worldwide. This jury verdict, coupled with the couple other recent big wins on appeal, likely will motivate the company to continue fighting these claims.
J&J is hopeful that the verdict and other appellate victories will hopefully lead to a slowdown in, if not an end to, the filing of these types of cases. However, as more and more plaintiffs have their cases heard, the evidence could quickly accumulate beyond the point of being defensible.