Johnson & Johnson’s most recent lawsuit involving the company’s talc-based products began this week, as a California jury heard opening statements on Monday. The lawsuit alleges that the company’s baby powder products contained asbestos and caused cancer.
The lawsuit is one of over 11,700 that the company is facing relating to its talc products.
The lawsuit filed by Terry Leavitt is one of the dozens scheduled in 2019. In opening statements, Leavitt’s lawyer, Joseph Satterley, claimed that the company knowingly sold a dangerous product. He claims that the company knew there was a risk of asbestos in their products, but the company failed to allow consumers to protect themselves.
Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and co-defendant Imerys Talc America countered, claiming that they would provide evidence that there is no asbestos in their products and that their product is not responsible for the cancer that Leavitt is suffering from.
Leavitt’s is the first case against the company to go to trial since a special report from Reuters showed that the company knew of the asbestos problem as early as the 1970s. Internal documents show that some of the tests were positive for small amounts of asbestos.
Leavitt was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017 after using the company’s products for years while living in the Philippines. The talc was sourced from mines in South Korea, and she claims that those mines have tested positive for asbestos.
The company lost three major cases in 2018, with one case resulting in a $4.69 billion reward for the plaintiff. The company won three other cases, while five ended with a hung jury. J&J is appealing the verdicts against the company, and they remain confident that the verdicts will be overturned
Johnson & Johnson claims that the fibers found in their products from South Korean talc cannot be classified as asbestos and are harmless.