Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $29 mln to dying woman

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $29 mln to dying woman

PanARMENIAN.Net - Johnson & Johnson must pay about $29 million to a dying California woman who blamed asbestos-tainted talc for causing her cancer. The jury decision is the company’s latest loss in nationwide litigation over its iconic baby powder, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Jurors in state court in Oakland held J&J responsible Wednesday for Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The panel, which included a lawyer and a state court judge, also found that the world’s largest maker of healthcare products didn’t warn Leavitt that its baby powder was tainted with the carcinogen.

The verdict was announced after the stock market closed. On Thursday, J&J shares fell 1% to $138.02. The stock has been under pressure over the last six months because of the growing talc litigation.

The verdict is J&J’s seventh trial loss over claims it hid the health risks of its baby powder for 50 years. It’s the first defeat since a Missouri jury ordered the company last year to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed their cancer on the product.

J&J officials contend Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman made errors in rulings on procedure and evidence in the latest trial that should have resulted in a mistrial.

“We are disappointed with today’s verdict and will pursue an appeal because Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. The company has had some talc-related verdicts thrown out and is appealing others.

J&J, which has steadfastly denied its baby powder is contaminated with asbestos, still faces more than 13,000 lawsuits claiming its 135-year-old baby powder line caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. That’s up from more than 11,000 as of last year. It has more than two dozen trials scheduled around the United States this year.

The Oakland jury of five men and seven women ordered J&J to pay $29 million in actual damages for Leavitt’s injuries after finding that the company’s handling of the asbestos-laced baby powder was a “substantial contributing factor” in her cancer’s development. The panel also cited J&J for “failing to adequately warn” about the powder’s “potential risks.”

The panel found J&J responsible for 78% of Leavitt’s award and its consumer products unit is on the hook for 20%. Cypress Mines, one of J&J’s former talc suppliers, is answerable for the remaining 2%.

Imerys Talc America Inc., which also supplied talc for J&J’s powder, had been named as a defendant, but was dropped from the case after seeking bankruptcy protection to avoid being swamped with talc suits. It’s a unit of Paris-based Imerys.

Leavitt’s doctors say her mesothelioma is advanced and she is not expected to live beyond 2020, according to testimony in the case. The mother of two testified that baby powder was used on her when she was a child, and she continued that practice into adulthood, sometimes as a “dry shower” and as foundation for her makeup.

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