Since the start of April, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the manufacturer of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products, has had an appreciable run of wide-ranging success in product liability cases claiming that use of talc products causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
In edition 267 of BC Disease News (here), we reported that J&J had been ordered to pay $29 million (£22 million) in damages, thanks to a Californian jury verdict. A fortnight later (read our article here), J&J was cleared of liability by the Supreme Court in New Jersey, in the same week that the company settled 3 lawsuits. In quick succession, we then reported (here) on a Californian trial which concluded without a finding of liability.
To assuage the uncertain legal and financial position that J&J faces (more than 14,000 multi-million dollar lawsuits), it sought to consolidate 2,400 state court claims before a single judge in a Delaware federal court. However, as we reported in edition 273 (here), the company was unsuccessful in doing so.
As expected, J&J’s mixed success has continued this week, with 2 negligence lawsuits having been resolved at trial.[i]
The New York Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ordered J&J to pay at least $25 million in compensation to 66-year-old Donna Olson, who pleaded that she had developed mesothelioma owing to a lifetime of Baby Powder application. The jury is scheduled to return to Court next week to assess the payment of additional damages that punish J&J for putting ‘corporate profits and reputation over the health and safety of consumers’[ii]
This verdict marks the 10th claimant victory to-date, though J&J spokeswoman, Kim Montagnino, has stated that the decision will be appealed:
‘This trial suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors -- one of the most egregious being the demonstrably false testimony from the plaintiff’s central expert’.
On the same day, a South Carolina state court jury cleared J&J of liability for Beth-Anee Johnson’s asbestos-related cancer, representing its 7th successful defence.[iii]
Much like J&J’s trial prospects, its share price over the past week has oscillated with no discernible impact instigated by the latest trial results.
Graph: J&J Share Price (1 Week)
(Source: Hargreaves Lansdown)
[i] Margaret Cronin Fisk and Jef Feeley, ‘Johnson & Johnson Loses $25 Million Talc Verdict in New York’ (21 May 2019 Bloomberg) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-21/johnson-johnson-loses-25-million-new-york-talc-verdict> 24 May 2019.
[ii] Olson v. Brenntag, 190328/2017, New York Supreme Court (Manhattan).
[iii] Beth-Anee F. Johnson v. Johnson & Johnson, 18-CP40-01781, South Carolina’s Court of Common Pleas, Fifth Judicial Circuit (Columbia).