Even in the face of a criminal investigation, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is more determined than ever to fight these defective product lawsuits.
In July 2019, a federal grand jury in Washinton, D.C. began exploring allegations that J&J executives knew its talcum powder was laced with deadly asbestos, but the company did nothing to address the issue. The investigation could lead to a federal indictment. In a parallel proceeding, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration vowed to look more closely at the talcum powder manufacturing process to ensure that cosmetic products, including baby powder, do not contain asbestos.
Despite these developments, J&J is determined to have its day in court. In fact, the company’s lawyers are fighting a plaintiff’s motion to voluntarily dismiss a cancer link lawsuit. Company officials are afraid the attorneys may use the opportunity to add even more plaintiffs to the action. The unusual move shows how determined J&J is to protect its brand. Even though baby powder sales represent only a fraction of its income, talcum powder has been a signature Johnson & Johnson product for about a century.
Nationwide, J&J faces about 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits. Most recently, a Missouri jury ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion in damages to twenty-two women. J&J is appealing that verdict.
The Link Between Talc and Asbestos
Before its carcinogenic properties became apparent, asbestos was widely used in shipbuilding and construction projects as a cheap insulator. Talc, which is one of the softest available minerals, is in many beauty and hygiene products. These minerals are often next to each other in the ground, so cross-contamination is fairly common.
Talcum powder may not be the only tainted product. Talc’s natural softness makes it an ingredient in many other cosmetic products, like makeup. In March 2019, the Food and Drug Administration found traces of asbestos in Claire’s makeup. The company, which usually markets its products to young teenage girls, voluntarily recalled the tainted products.
But J&J’s apparent coverup of the talcum powder-asbestos link is most troubling. From a liability standpoint, this link is not really relevant in civil court. As outlined below, manufacturers are strictly liable for any damages their defective products cause. But from a practical and damages standpoint, the link is huge for Brainerd, MN injury lawyers.
The asbestos link is easy for jurors to follow, because everyone knows that asbestos is dangerous. So, a jury can easily see how women who regularly used talcum powder developed cancer. The link is also important for damages purposes. To obtain punitive damages, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must present clear and convincing evidence of recklessness. Covering up a health hazard to preserve sales certainly qualifies as such.
How a Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer Obtains Compensation
Many times, obtaining compensation in a civil claim is like jumping over a series of hurdles. Getting past the statute of limitations is usually the first hurdle.
Generally, the statute of limitations in injury cases is two years. After that, victims lose the right to file legal claims. Fortunately, the discovery rule extends the time period in defective product and other cases. The clock does not start running until:
- Victims know the full extent of their injuries, and
- They reasonably connect those injuries to a particular cause.
Assume Velma Victim uses talcum powder for many years. The asbestos fibers in that talcum powder slowly migrate through her body. These toxic fibers may cause many types of serious illnesses, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. But Velma does not know about that link until she reads about asbestos contamination on the internet. At that point, she has two years to file a claim. That’s usually enough time for a Brainerd, MN Injury lawyer to preserve her rights, as long as she acts quickly.
Liability is the next hurdle. Much like the statute of limitations problem, this hurdle is not very high either. Under the law, manufacturers are strictly liable for:
- Design defects, and
- Manufacturing defects.
Arguably, talcum powder involves both these defects. Cornstarch and other safer materials are available which have roughly the same properties as talc. The failure to use a safe, available alternative is generally a design defect. Furthermore, as outlined above, J&J may have allowed dangerous asbestos fibers to mix into the talcum powder it sold to millions of women.
Resolving the case is the third hurdle. Generally, injury claims settle out of court. But that may not be the case with regard to talcum powder cases. J&J is determined to protect its brand, so its lawyers often refuse to compromise on key points. Therefore, your Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must be very aggressive in these situations. Otherwise, victims may not receive the compensation they deserve.
Connect with an Assertive Attorney
With regard to talcum powder, a sprinkle a day could lead to serious injury. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.