Johnson & Johnson announced today it was discontinuing sales of its talc-based baby powder products in the United States and Canada amid a firestorm of lawsuits claiming its signature product contains asbestos. The announcement comes just weeks after US District Judge Freda Wolfson ruled to allow testimony from plaintiffs’ experts in the New Jersey-based Multidistrict Litigation. Thousands of claimants have argued that regular exposure to the baby powder has caused them to develop ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
Was Decision To Pull Talcum Powder Related To 2019 Recall?
In October 2019, J&J issued its first ever recall of talc-based baby powder after FDA testing found trace amounts of asbestos in the product. The company claims that this is a “commercial decision” due to a 60% decline in sales since 2017 as consumer habits change due in large part to lawsuits filed over the safety of the product.
As to the timing of discontinuing the talc-based Baby Powder, Professor of Marketing at Georgetown, Christie Nordhielm, claims that it appears Johnson & Johnson decided to withdraw from the market while consumers are concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic: “It’s a nice time to quietly do it, it will eliminate reputational hit.”
Thousands of lawsuits from consumers and survivors claim that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos—a known carcinogen to humans. Internal company records and trial evidence demonstrate that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson has also been the target of a federal criminal investigation into their lack of forthrightness about their talc products’ safety. 41 states have investigated Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder in addition to an investigation being launched by a Congressional subcommittee about the health of asbestos in talc-containing consumer products.
The pharmaceutical giant will continue to sell its cornstarch-based powder.
Ruling Clears Plaintiffs For Bellwether Trials
Judge Wolfson ruled on April 27, 2020 that five plaintiffs’ experts in the Talcum Powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson could appear before juries.
This is the first ruling by a federal judge on the reliability of plaintiffs’ experts testifying about whether or not talcum baby powder causes ovarian cancer. Of the five plaintiff experts that Judge Wolfson allowed to testify before juries in talcum powder litigation, two of those experts have testified before Congress on talcum powder safety.
Based on epidemiological studies, the plaintiffs’ experts will be able to testify that J&J’’s talc-based products can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer cancer due to contamination with asbestos and heavy metals. J&J wanted to prevent the plaintiffs’ experts from testifying in order to effectively eliminate all of the cases overseen by Judge Wolfson.
A handful of the more than 16,000 talcum powder lawsuits that have been consolidated under the MDL overseen by Judge Wolfson will now be selected for early “bellwether” trials which can help determine the strength of each side’s case and aid in a potential settlement process.
The decision opens the path for bellwether trials to begin in the MDL sometime in 2021.
Let Us Help
GoldenbergLaw is currently litigating cases where individuals have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after long term talcum powder exposure. Contact us today, and let us deliver the Gold standard advocacy you deserve.