Update (07/20/2023): This lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson led to a $18.8 million verdict for the victim, who has pericardial mesothelioma. The six-week trial was the first Johnson & Johnson faced in nearly two years. The jury found that the victim was entitled to compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering.
Johnson & Johnson tried to “Texas Two-Step” its way out of facing mesothelioma victims in the courtroom, but the company’s bankruptcy plans were halted months ago.
The company then recently faced the first lawsuit to reach a trial since the bankruptcy attempt – not the only characteristic making this case unique.
According to the website Courtroom View Network, Johnson & Johnson was the defendant in a lawsuit involving pericardial mesothelioma, which is a rare type of mesothelioma accounting for approximately 1% of all cases.
This rare form of mesothelioma leading to a lawsuit is especially newsworthy because it almost never happens.
More About Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma patients usually don’t file lawsuits. This type of mesothelioma is very aggressive, forming in the lining of the heart called the pericardium. Symptoms are nondescript and difficult to identify as evidence of a deadly cancer.
There are only an estimated 2,500 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year, meaning there are at most two dozen pericardial mesothelioma cases. The Journal of Thoracic Oncology estimates 10-15 cases in the U.S. annually. It’s called an “ultra rare” disease.
The survival rates are so low that there’s no concrete data indicating a median survival for patients. In fact, many patients are identified as having pericardial mesothelioma in autopsies.
Overview of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Asbestos Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder has been at the center of a talc and mesothelioma controversy for some time.
The well-known product’s main ingredient is talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral. So, too, is asbestos, and talc and asbestos are often located in the same geographical areas. Mining for talc can mix in asbestos.
Talc is ground into a “talcum powder,” which is used in cosmetics and health products to absorb moisture and improve skincare. During the grinding process, any asbestos present can be disturbed, leading to sharp fibers contaminating the talcum powder. Consumer use of contaminated powder is how they’re exposed to asbestos, which is the only cause of mesothelioma cancer.
Reuters published an article in 2018 claiming Johnson & Johnson knew its product was tainted with asbestos. In July 2019, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson lied about their knowledge of asbestos in their products. In 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop the production of its talc Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada.
Facing tens of thousands of lawsuits from people claiming Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder led to their cancer (mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and lung cancer), the company offloaded the legal liabilities of the Baby Powder brand to a newly created subsidiary called LTL Management. The new subsidiary then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way of avoiding future lawsuits. This legal maneuver is called the “Texas Two-Step.”
A court recently rejected the bankruptcy proposal from LTL Management, and now Johnson & Johnson is pledging $8.9 billion to settle pending and future lawsuits with victims, which in July of 2023 was denied by a federal judge in New Jersey.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Victim Exposed to Asbestos From J&J Baby Powder
The federal court in New Jersey overseeing LTL Management’s bankruptcy filing specifically allowed this pericardial mesothelioma case to proceed. The plaintiff, Emory V., is 24 years old, which is particularly young for a mesothelioma patient. The average age of people diagnosed with mesothelioma is in the 60s.
The plaintiff’s lawyers alleged that Emory was exposed to asbestos as an infant when his parents used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. According to Courtroom View Network, the plaintiff’s lawyer told the court that this cancer will take the victim’s life.
The legal argument – one used in tens of thousands of pending lawsuits – is Johnson & Johnson knew for years that talc posed a health risk due to the possibility of asbestos contamination.
The jury awarded $18.8 million to the victim. This is all compensatory damages. There are no punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson as punishment for their malfeasance, and the victim cannot collect the judgment currently because most litigation against J&J is frozen due to their bankruptcy case.
Sources & Author
- Johnson & Johnson must pay $18.8 million to California cancer patient in baby powder suit. CNN. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/18/business/johnson-and-johnson-baby-powder-suit/index.html. Accessed: 07/20/2023.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma, a Disease for Brave Hearts. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.jto.org/article/S1556-0864(22)01824-X/fulltext. Accessed: 07/04/2023.
- Johnson & Johnson’s 1st Post-LTL Bankruptcy Talc Trial Begins, Watch Gavel-to-Gavel via CVN. Courtroom View Network. Retrieved from: https://blog.cvn.com/johnson-johnsons-1st-post-ltl-bankruptcy-talc-trial-begins-watch-gavel-to-gavel-via-cvn. Accessed: 07/04/2023.
Sources & Author