Johnson & Johnson, Kenvue Ordered to Pay $45 Million in Talcum Baby Powder Lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson, Kenvue Ordered to Pay $45 Million in Talcum Baby Powder Lawsuit featured image
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan / Staff

Johnson & Johnson (J&J), alongside Kenvue, the brand’s consumer health spinoff, have been held responsible for the death of Illinois resident and mother Theresa Garcia. In January 2020, Garcia was diagnosed with mesothelioma—a rare and aggressive cancer often linked to asbestos exposure, per the Mayo Clinic. Sadly, she succumbed to the illness in July of the same year.

Per a report published by Beauty Packaging, the jury ordered $45 million in damages for Garcia’s family. Attorneys made the case that the baby powder contained asbestos fibers, to which the jury concluded it caused her cancer.

Despite years of lawsuits and landmark settlements, Johnson & Johnson has consistently insisted that its products are asbestos-free and safe for use. Nonetheless, the company continues to face thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-based baby powder caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

This ruling comes after Johnson & Johnson declared bankruptcy twice, causing significant delays in the legal process. “After years of delay caused by Johnson & Johnson’s bad faith abuse of the bankruptcy system, we are so grateful that the jury saw through Johnson & Johnson’s, Johnson & Johnson Holdco, Inc.’s and Kenvue, Inc.’s deceptions,” said attorney Jessica Dean of Dallas’ Dean Omar Branham Shirley, who represents Garcia’s family.

“Not only did the defendants’ negligence and deceit cheat loyal customers like Theresa, but their deception has ultimately robbed a family of their mother,” she added.

The verdict in Garcia’s case is significant, as numerous ongoing lawsuits concerning Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products have had mixed outcomes. As recent as April 18, Reuters reported that a Florida jury determined that J&J’s baby powder did not cause the ovarian cancer that resulted in the death of a woman from Sarasota County. The woman’s family had alleged that her daily use of the powder from 1965 until her cancer diagnosis in 2016 contributed to her illness.

Despite Johnson & Johnson’s insistence on the safety of its baby powder, the company discontinued the product globally last year, announcing its switch from a talc-based formulation to cornstarch.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” said J&J in an official statement published in August of 2022. “As a result of this transition, talc-based JOHNSON’S Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023.”

“We continuously evaluate and optimize our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth,” the statement continued. “This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends.

Cornstarch-based JOHNSON’S Baby Powder is already sold in countries around the world. JOHNSON’S is a flagship global brand of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health and we remain fully committed to ensuring JOHNSON’S products are loved by parents and families for years to come.

Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based JOHNSON’S Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”

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