J&J Claims They Had No Idea About Asbestos in Baby Powder, Despite Facing Lawsuits and Losing Billions in Market Value

Johnson & Johnson lost $39.8 billion in market value last month, after a report from Reuters claimed that the company knew for decades that its Baby Powder and other products contained asbestos. Although J&J has refuted the story, calling it “one-sided, false and inflammatory,” that didn’t stop the company’s shares from dropping over 10% in one day. J&J is now facing thousands of lawsuits, accusing the company’s talcum-based products of using asbestos that can cause mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and other types of cancers. These lawsuits are seeking liability damages totaling around $3.3 billion.

A Decades-Long Cover-Up

Although there have been lawsuits going back to 1999 claiming J&J was using asbestos in its talc, it’s taken decades for accusations to add up. Recently, J&J was forced to share thousands of company memos, internal reports, and other confidential materials with lawyers for the roughly 11,700 plaintiffs who have claimed their baby powder gave them cancer. According to Reuters’ investigation into those documents, as well as depositions and trial testimony, the company’s raw talc and finished powders periodically tested positive for asbestos between 1971 and the early 2000.

These documents also indicate that while J&J worried about this issue, company executives, lawyers, scientists, doctors, and mine managers all failed to address and disclose it to regulators or the public. Furthermore, Reuters’ investigation uncovered a pattern of coordinated and largely successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ ability to limit asbestos in talc products, as well planning to curb research on the effects of talc on people’s health.

Even before the company was aware they may have a widespread problem, reports stretching as far back as 1957 suggested that their talc could be unsafe, with an Italian supplier describing contaminants in the powder as fibrous and needle-like. From that point into the early 2000s, other outside labs occasionally tried to warn J&J of “fiberform,” “rods,” and other asbestos-like powders being found in their talc, too. In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug administration (or FDA) was analyzing whether to limit the use of asbestos in talc products, J&J told regulators that asbestos was definitely not “detected in any sample” of their talc between ’72-’73, despite at least three labs reporting asbestos levels that were low to “rather high” in products between this period.

While only a limited quantity of asbestos has been detected in J&J’s talcum powder over the years, only a small amount of their overall product is tested. Moreover, the fact remains that the World Health Organization and other leading authorities have not recognized any safe amount of asbestos for human consumption.

In lab tests conducted in lawsuits against J&J, asbestos was found in more than half of Baby Powder samples taken from plaintiffs’ cupboards. Samples acquired from eBay also found asbestos in Baby Powder, and even in a 1978 bottle from J&J’s corporate museum. Another lab found asbestos in J&J’s Shower to Shower talc. The experts who examined these samples concluded that the asbestos concentrations were high enough that users, “would have, more likely than not, been exposed.”

As a clear link emerged overtime between talc and asbestos, more and more of these suits arose against J&J. In cases in New Jersey and California, juries awarded large settlements to plaintiffs who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma following exposure to J&J products. In another verdict, out of St. Louis, 33 plaintiffs filed a claim alleging that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc had caused ovarian cancer. As has become common with lawsuits against J&J, many of the women in this suit stated they frequently used J&J products as antiperspirants. Their claim was ultimately successful, with the jury eventually awarding the plaintiffs $4.69 billion in damages.

Hire a Product Liability Attorney from The Gilbert Law Group®

At The Gilbert Law Group®, our Denver product liability lawyers are committed to taking on big corporate interests to protect you. We have years of experience fighting for clients in this field, including in cases concerning defective drug and medical device injuries. When companies let their own bottom line get in the way of consumer interests, and their callous negligence leads to people getting hurt or sick, we are there to offer legal support. We are committed to educating clients on product liability, and even offer free case evaluations, so we can go over all the important details of a potential suit with you. With tens of millions of dollars awarded to clients in settlements, you can trust our history to know that we will always work tirelessly to secure results. Don’t suffer because of a dangerous or defective product, seek the compensation you need to go on living your life, with The Gilbert Law Group®.

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