Thirty-million dollars was awarded in damages this week via a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury, to a man who contracted cancer after more than thirty years of using Johnson & Johnson baby powder. The man’s wife was given $7 million.
For over three decades, Banker Stephen Lanzo used talc powder products from the company, stating that inhaling the talc resulted in mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive cancer that negatively impacts the lungs’ lining. Past research has revealed that talc deposits, one of the softest minerals found around the globe, are sometimes located near minerals that contain asbestos, and there is a risk of cross-contamination while mining. Johnson & Johnson have gone on the record stating their powder products don’t contain asbestos; this being a legal requirement since the ‘70s.
CNN reported that while similar cases have been going through the court system, on of which is set for trial in South Carolina in May, a California jury recently favored Johnson & Johnson during a court battle that ended in November of 2017. This current case was the first one of its kind in New Jersey, which also happens to be the home state of the company.
When it comes to Lanzo’s case, Johnson & Johnson holds 70 percent of the liability charges, while a supplier of the talc mineral, Imerys Talc, is liable for 30 percent of the case.
The lawyers for Lanzo claimed Johnson & Johnson held back information from customers regarding asbestos and its health risks within its powder products since the ‘60s. The company has argued that it has done thorough research around products and testing revealed it was not contaminated.
Spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich, stated the company was disappointed with the decision; however, the jury is set to deliberate further, and the company will provide additional comments once the case is complete finished.
Meanwhile Gwen Myers from Imerys Talc released a statement for her company noting that their hearts go out to individuals affected by all cancers. She added that while Imerys Talc is disappointed by the decision, they remain confident that the powder was not the reason behind Mr. Lanzo’s cancer. She went on to state the evidence clearly outlined that his exposure to asbestos came from other sources found within childhood schools or homes, and that the decision of the jury was not consistent with a study recently published around mine workers who milled talc throughout the day during a course of over five decades, yet not one mesothelioma case emerged.
The second phase of the trial involving the jury and punitive damages begins this week.