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J&J Ordered to Pay $40 Million Talcum Powder Award

Nancy Cabibi and her husband, Phil, filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that alleged that the defendants’ talc powder products caused her diagnosis of deadly mesothelioma. Recently, a California jury agreed with the allegations in the lawsuit and ordered J&J to pay $40.3 million to the plaintiffs. The Cabibis alleged that the defendants had known about the contamination of their talc powder with asbestos for decades, yet failed to warn consumers about the presence of the carcinogenic substance or the risks associated with exposure to it.

Specifics of the talc powder lawsuit

In 2017, Idaho resident Nancy Cabibi was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. In her fight to survive, she has undergone cancer surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy treatments. Cabibi’s body tissue was analyzed, and the test results revealed the presence of tremolite and anthophyllite asbestos. According to papers filed with the court, both of those substances are known to have contaminated Johnson & Johnson’s talc powder products.

During the trial, counsel for J&J argued that Cabibi’s mesothelioma likely stemmed from her time living in an industrial area of Los Angeles, CA. However, her defense attorneys shot down this theory by pointing out that the patient never worked in or entered any of the facilities where she might have been exposed to asbestos.

The trial itself lasted four weeks. The jury deliberated for six days before returning the $40.3 million verdict. The defendants were ordered to pay $20.3 million to Cabibi and $20 million to her husband.

Talc powder litigation

The lawsuit filed by the Cabibis is just one of thousands of similar lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson. Currently, there are about 12,000 complaints pending in courts across the country, all filed with regard to the company’s Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder products. Like Cabibi, some of the plaintiffs allege that they developed mesothelioma caused by inhaling tiny particles of powder contaminated with asbestos. Many other plaintiffs were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Their lawsuits allege that their diagnosis stems from the use of talc powder for feminine hygiene purposes.

Thousands of talc powder lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDLs are created for the purpose of streamlining litigation when multiple lawsuits are filed against common defendants with shared allegations and statements of fact. MDLs can help preserve the resources of all involved parties, as well as reduce the risk of duplicative discovery and contradictory rulings across jurisdictions. The talc powder MDL has been centralized in the District of New Jersey. Judge Freda L. Wolfson is presiding.

The Cabibi lawsuit hasn’t been the only one to result in a significant monetary award for the plaintiffs. In 2018, a jaw-dropping $4.7 billion verdict was awarded to 22 plaintiffs who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after regularly using the defendants’ talc powder products. That award consisted of $550 million in compensatory damages, along with $4.14 billion in punitive damages intended to punish Johnson & Johnson for egregious misconduct. After that award was handed down, the judge rejected the defendants’ attempt to have the verdict overturned.

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