In a notable departure from previous practice, consumer giant Johnson & Johnson suddenly settled three separate lawsuits filed by people who blamed the company’s popular talc-based products for their mesothelioma diagnosis. Prior to these agreements, which apparently closed within 24 hours of each other, the company has defended itself aggressively against charges of asbestos contamination of their products. The shift is raising questions about whether the company has adopted a new approach to asbestos litigation.
Settlements Come In the Midst of Trial Proceedings
There are currently over 13,000 asbestos lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson, filed by people diagnosed with both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The cases that have already been through jury trials have had mixed results, with several of them leading to multi-million dollar awards. The three settlements came after two of the cases were well under way: in one of the cases, an Oklahoma City state court jury was already weighing its decision about the company’s liability for a 77-year-old woman’s peritoneal mesothelioma when the settlement was announced. Another of the cases that settled involved a 36-year-old California woman who had used the company’s talc-based powders since childhood, and who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma two-and-a-half years ago. Her case was in the midst of testimony, while a third case was scheduled to be heard in New York next month.
Settlements May Signal New Posture for J&J
Advocates for mesothelioma victims and those diagnosed with ovarian cancer are paying close attention to these developments, as it may signal a new willingness to negotiate on the part of Johnson & Johnson’s legal team. The company continues to deny the presence of asbestos in its products and is minimizing the meaning of the recent settlements. It is notable that only the mesothelioma cases against the company have settled: mesothelioma cases represent almost all of the lawsuits pending against the company that are scheduled for 2019.
Internal company documents confirming the presence of asbestos may have been a factor in the settlements: one juror in the Oklahoma trial indicated that the jury had been leaning towards finding the company liable, saying, “What convinced me were all of the internal Johnson & Johnson documents.’’ They said in their own words that they knew there was asbestos but they kept saying, ‘Zero tolerance for asbestos.’’’ The catalyst to the settlement in the New York case may have been a judge’s ruling that the victim could present evidence of asbestos and talc being found in her ovarian and fallopian tissue.
If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or ovarian cancer and you believe that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder may be at fault, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can provide you with much-needed resources. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.