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Johnson & Johnson Talcum Baby Powder Cancer Lawsuits

In what appeared to be a breakthrough, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) pulled the trigger on ceasing sales of its talc-based baby powder. Don’t assume this cessation is admission to guilt. 

J&J’s May 19th, 2020 statement stated due to COVID-19 and the need to allow for social distancing in facilities, many items no longer would be shipped. The talc-based baby powder is discontinued in the U.S. and Canada only. Downplaying the powder’s importance to its bottom line, J&J only attributed 0.5% of the U.S. Consumer Health business to the powder’s sales. 

The company explained in North America talc-based baby powder sales declined. The continued decrease was, per J&J, “fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.” J&J recommitted to the idea that worldwide medical experts provided studies of talc’s safety. They expanded this notion of safety by claiming every verdict against J&J had been overturned in appeals.

As it turned out, Johnson & Johnson made this proclamation one month too soon.

Johnson and Johnson denied overturning of court decision

Johnson & Johnson talc baby powder

On June 23rd, 2020, a Missouri Court of Appeals denied J&J’s bid to overturn a July 2018 ruling. The original case consisted of claims from 22 women and found J&J at fault. The damages awarded, however, were lowered from $4.69 billion to $2.12 billion due in part to the dismissal of some of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Quick to announce its intent to appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, J&J’s spokeswoman, Kim Montagnino, stated, “This was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts.” She went on to say, “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.” Denial of any wrong-doing or evidence of asbestos in the talc is a recurring pattern for the company. Memos and letters show otherwise.

At that time of the original case, J&J faced over 9,000 lawsuits. To date, this number stands at over 19,000. As displayed in this case and appeal, J&J continues to whitewash the dangers of talc. This rejection of concern is on par with the decades of findings brought to J&J’s attention, often brushed aside based upon company-led or company-related studies. 

Johnson & Johnson responds to critical Reuters article

A retort released by J&J in December 2018 to a Reuters article verifies J&J’s used internal testing methods. The explanation justifies random sampling of talc to testing a sample of blood versus all the blood. The company did not address with blood, you are taking a sample out of the body, whereas with talc, you are putting in outside material. Imagine a test tube in which you take out a dropper full of liquid. Now imagine adding a chemical to the test tube, thereby changing the composition. It neither detailed how samples of talc from one mine can have different levels of asbestos, whereas a whole blood sample is relatively similar despite where you draw the blood.

Concern was expressed over the description of background levels of asbestos. J&J’s rational is the level of asbestos in the talc is lower than what is considered a safe background level. The article does not address this additional exposure being added to already present “background levels,” thus making the load higher.

J&J further retorted the potential of asbestos in the current product on the market. “Although Reuters received dispositive information showing that today’s talc – mined in China for the last 15 years – does not contain asbestos. Reuters chose not to inform its readers of this fact.” 

This statement from J&J directly goes against findings released one year later by the FDA. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers of a voluntary recall by Johnson & Johnson of Johnson’s Baby Powder after FDA testing has found that a sample from one lot of the product contains chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos.” The company recalled 33,000 bottles of its talc baby powder. 

Why are cases against Johnson & Johnson being overturned?

J&J stated they plan to fight the lawsuits coming their way. Their recent statement, “We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the Company in the courtroom,” further pushes home the point. They have no intention of backing away or admitting fault.

In their defense against the Reuters article, J&J uses the term “junk science” to dismiss the cases against them. However, in an April 27th, 2020 ruling, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson said five of the plaintiffs’ scientific experts could appear before judges. Two of these experts have testified before Congress regarding the safety of talcum powder. By allowing these testimonies, the judge looked past the claim of “junk science” and said there is value in the scientific evidence presented by those calling out J&J. 

Others familiar with the cases claim court decisions have been overturned based upon a procedural justification. These jurisdictional issues are fixable. With the ruling that the five experts can testify, the experts of the defense and plaintiff will undoubtedly be imperative for upcoming cases J&J appeals, potentially leading to a battle of the experts.

Health risks from using Johnson & Johnson talc baby powder

cancer patient with doctors

Current cases against J&J focus on two types of cancer: ovarian and mesothelioma. While in some cases against J&J, the women used talc powder for a short period, most of the women maintained decades of regular use. 

Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Should you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor for an examination. Because of the often symptomless nature of ovarian cancer, it is often not detected until the later stages. Early symptoms are typically weight loss and a general loss of appetite. The concern with talc is the particles may travel from the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes and find their way to the ovaries.

  • Pain/pressure in the pelvic area
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or back
  • Vaginal bleeding/abnormal discharge
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Abnormal periods
  • Gas/nausea/vomiting
  • Increased urge or need to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty eating
  • Loss of appetite/feeling full quickly

Signs of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. When the tumor spreads, it presses against the chest wall and abdominal cavity. Unfortunately, this frequently doesn’t happen until the later stages.

  • Chest/abdomen pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight Loss
  • Dry cough
  • Respiratory complications
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Fluid around the lungs
  • Weakness in the muscles

What to do if you have cancer and used Johnson & Johnson baby powder

Johnson & Johnson plans to fight every case presented against them. The company will use whatever means they have to appeal judgments against them. Don’t be intimidated into silence. We are here to help. 

At The Hayes Firm, we match you with legal counsel experienced in your situation. The last thing you need to worry about is finding the right lawyer for your case. 

If you feel your cancer was caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talc baby powder, contact us today. Let us fight for you.


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