In what looks to be the first-of-its-kind settlement, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to pay more than $1.5 million to a woman who claims that J&J’s baby powder caused her asbestos-linked cancer.
The Manhattan woman’s lawsuit blames J&J and supplier Imerys America Inc. for her mesothelioma.
Thus far, J&J has vehemently denied claims that its baby powder contains asbestos.
“We unequivocally believe that our talc, our baby powder, does not contain asbestos,” said J&J chief executive officer Alex Gorsky. “And that’s demonstrated in thousands of studies, studies not only conducted by J&J, but studies conducted by independent authorities, well-respected authorities, where we work closely with regulators who are overlooking the methodology.”
Several other women have blamed Imerys and J&J for their ovarian cancer. Juries in New Jersey, Missouri and California have handed down more than $5 billion in total awards to plaintiffs. Some of those verdicts have been tossed, and J&J has won verdicts in other cases.
New revelations that J&J executives may have known about asbestos contamination in its baby powder products may have impacted the company’s decision to settle. Lawsuits and Freedom of Information requests have revealed that executives may have known about asbestos contamination since the 1970s. One executive recommended upgrading its quality control, while another indicated that they should discontinue the use of talc entirely due to concerns of cancer.
J&J’s shares have been under pressure since these revelations were revealed. Shares fell 10% the day the news broke, shedding more than $45 billion in value. Shares fell 1.3% after news of the settlement.
J&J will face more lawsuits heading into 2019, including several in St. Louis. Imerys had settled several cases before trial in order to limit its exposure. The company has refused to cut any deals until now. The company currently faces more than 11,700 pending lawsuits over its talc products.