The eyes of nearly 12,000 plaintiffs in pending lawsuits accusing Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder of causing either malignant mesothelioma or ovarian cancer were on a court room in South Carolina this week, waiting to hear what a jury would say in the retrial of a case involving a 30-year old woman who died after using the product her entire life. As happened in the first hearing of Bertila Boyd-Bostic’s story, the jury was unable to come to a conclusion as to whether Johnson & Johnson was guilty of negligence or not, and the case remains unresolved.
Ms. Boyd-Bostic died of malignant mesothelioma in 2017. The rare and deadly form of cancer is known to be caused by exposure to asbestos and is generally diagnosed in elderly men who have a known occupational exposure to the carcinogenic material. A thorough review of her personal and occupational history revealed only one potential source of exposure – the use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powder, which many believe has a history of asbestos contamination. Talc is a mineral that is generally found in close proximity to asbestos deposits, and there is frequently cross-contamination between the two. There have been several mesothelioma lawsuits, as well as ovarian cancer lawsuits, filed against talc sellers, with each plaintiff presenting evidence of knowledge on the part of pharmaceutical companies that their product contained asbestos. So far Johnson & Johnson has lost two of these trials and won three, and there have been multiple mistrials like the one that happened in Ms. Boyd-Bostic’s case.
Beyond the cases that have already been heard, there are approximately 11,700 talc lawsuits waiting in the wings. Of those, 9,700 involve plaintiffs that have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a result of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder in the genital area, and roughly 2,000 accuse the company’s product of causing malignant mesothelioma. To date, Johnson & Johnson has been steadfast in refusing to settle any of these cases out of court.