A few years ago, if you had asked me what talcum powder makes me think of, I would’ve said old people and gym changing rooms. However, the last few years have seen the perception of the product change, and talc is now more commonly associated with cancer.
After a series of allegations and lawsuits regarding the impact of talcum powder on public health, a man has received a seriously large payout after he contracted cancer from talcum powder.
Stephen Lanzo was exposed to asbestos in talc-based products as a young boy and, as a result, he contracted mesothelioma from inhaling dust that was generated through his use of J&J talc products since 1972.
Now, as a result of the court case, Johnson & Johnson have been ordered to pay $117 million in damages, a New Jersey state court said on Wednesday. The jury ordered the company to pay an additional $80 million in punitive damages to Lanzo after he and his wife were awarded $37 million in compensatory damages during the first stage of the trial last Thursday.
The trial was the second in the US to focus on the claims that J&J talc products contain asbestos. The company are also fighting thousands of other cases that claim that the products also cause ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million of the punitive damages award, with the Imerys unit making up the other $25 million, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.
The decision marks the first loss for J&J when it comes to allegations regarding their talc-based products. The company denies the allegations that items such as baby powders contain asbestos and have also denied that any of their products could cause cancer.
In a statement issued in wake of the verdict, J&J said that it would continue to defend the safety of its Baby Powder and that they have begun to appeal the verdict, adding that the company had been prevented from presenting important evidence to the jury.
“After suffering multiple losses through court rulings and at trial, plaintiffâ€™s attorneys have shifted their strategy and are now alleging that talcum powder is contaminated with asbestos,” the company said.
Imerys Talc America also issued a statement in which they said that they would also appeal the decision, adding that they stand behind the safety of their products. “The evidence is clear that (Lanzo’s) asbestos exposure came from different sources,” the company said.
Speaking about the decision, Lanzo’s lawyer, Moshe Maimon, said: “We are gratified that justice was achieved and that our clients will be fairly compensated.”
Johnson & Johnson are currently facing 6,610 talc-related lawsuits nationally, with a large percentage of them being based on claims that it failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer by using its product for feminine hygiene.
Asbestos claims are a new challenge for the company. It had previously won the only other asbestos-related trial back in November, when a Los Angeles Superior Court jury ruled in its favour.
It’s a huge payout for Lanzo and, given the publicity it has received, don’t be surprised to see more allegations aimed at the company.