In a significant blow to Johnson & Johnson, a California jury decided on Tuesday that the company must pay $18.8 million to a man who claimed he developed cancer due to exposure to its baby powder. The case involving Anthony Hernandez Valadez marks a setback for the pharmaceutical giant as it grapples with thousands of similar lawsuits concerning its talc-based products in a US bankruptcy court.
Jurors in an Oakland state court ruled that J&J’s baby powder played a role in Valadez’s development of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer typically associated with asbestos exposure. Notably, Valadez’s case proceeded to trial despite a court order suspending all litigation, making it an exception due to his deteriorating health following J&J’s attempt to shield its talc liability through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The legal battle between Johnson & Johnson and those alleging harm from its talc-based products has escalated further, with the company suing four doctors who published studies linking talc-based personal care items to cancer. J&J is aggressively challenging the scientific research, which it claims is inaccurate.
A controversial 2021 spinoff saw J&J’s subsidiary, LTL Management, take on the company’s talc liability. Just last week, LTL Management filed a lawsuit in New Jersey federal court seeking to compel three researchers to retract or correct a study that indicated asbestos-contaminated consumer talc products could contribute to mesothelioma development.
Johnson & Johnson responded to the recent verdict, stating its intention to appeal. The company argues that “erroneous” rulings by the judge prevented them from presenting crucial evidence demonstrating that Valadez’s rare form of mesothelioma was not caused by their baby powder.
In response to mounting legal challenges and public concern, Johnson & Johnson removed its talc-based powders from the US and Canadian markets in 2020, replacing them with a corn-starch-based alternative. Additionally, the company has pledged to withdraw all talcum powder-containing baby powders from global markets by the end of this year. However, the legal battles continue, raising questions about the future of talc-based products in the pharmaceutical industry.