BloombergOAKLAND, Calif./WILMINGTON, Del./DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Johnson & Johnson must pay about $29 million to a dying California woman who blamed asbestos-tainted talc for causing her cancer, the company’s latest loss in nationwide litigation over its iconic baby powder.
Jurors in state court in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday held J&J responsible for Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The panel, which included a lawyer and a state-court judge, also found the world’s largest maker of health-care products didn’t warn Leavitt its baby powder was tainted with the carcinogen.
J&J stock dropped as much as 2 percent in after-hours trading to $136.40 after the verdict was announced. It closed at $139.41 Wednesday in New York. The company’s shares have been under pressure over the past six months because of the growing talc litigation.
The verdict is J&J’s seventh trial loss over claims it hid the health risks of its baby powder for 50 years. It’s the first defeat since a Missouri jury ordered the company last year to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed their cancer on the product.
J&J officials contend Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman made errors in rulings on procedure and evidence in the trial that should have resulted in a mistrial.
“We are disappointed with today’s verdict and will pursue an appeal because Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. The company has had some talc-related verdicts thrown out and is appealing others.
Joseph Satterley, Leavitt’s lawyer said “another jury has rejected the decades-long deception by Johnson & Johnson claiming that their baby powder was free of asbestos.”
“Hundreds of internal J&J documents showed the truth that it has been hiding for years. We are proud of the jury’s hard work and confident that jurors in future cases will likewise follow the science and the law,” he said.
J&J, which has steadfastly denied its baby powder is contaminated with asbestos, still faces more than 13,000 lawsuits claiming its 135-year-old baby powder line caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. That’s up from more than 11,000 as of last year. It has more than two dozen trials scheduled around the United States this year.
The Oakland jury of five men and seven women ordered J&J to pay $29 million in actual damages for Leavitt’s injuries after finding that J&J’s handling of the asbestos-laced baby powder was a “substantial contributing factor” in her cancer’s development. The panel also cited J&J for “failing to adequately warn” about the powder’s “potential risks.”
The panel found J&J responsible for 78 percent of Leavitt’s award and its consumer products unit is on the hook for 20 percent. Cypress Mines, one of J&J’s former talc suppliers, is answerable for the remaining 2 percent.Speech