In a recent case based on a woman’s claim that Johnson’s Baby Powder – used as a base for makeup and dry shampoo – caused her mesothelioma, a jury in Northern California handed down a $29.5 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson, makers of the iconic baby powder. This is the second major verdict win against Johnson & Johnson obtained by lead trial attorney Joseph Satterley of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC, in Oakland, California, firm colleague Denyse Clancy, and Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg, LLP, in New York. This legal team secured a similar New Jersey verdict for $117 million in 2018.
This verdict does not include punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson but, instead, awards the plaintiffs, Teresa Leavitt and Dean McElroy (a married couple), separate damages that include $22 million for Mrs. Leavitt’s past and future noneconomic damages, $2.5 million for her past and future economic damages that include her medical expenses and lost income, and $5 million for Mr. McElroy’s spousal damages, also known as loss of consortium and loss of services and society.
The verdict came just one day after testimony about potential hazards related to cosmetic talc were heard by a House subcommittee. The hearing’s intention was the examination of scientific evidence regarding health risks associated with long-term usage of consumer products containing talc. Several major elements were considered:
- Talc is often contaminated with asbestos, and it is used in a wide variety of consumer goods.
- Since the 1960s, scientists have identified a possible link between the use of powders that contain talc and ovarian cancer.
- The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas on February 21, 2019, in an asbestos investigation regarding Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder.
- In response to these findings, the FDA issued a statement urging cosmetic companies like Johnson and Johnson’s to voluntarily register all products containing talc in its Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program.
The California trial was the first against Johnson & Johnson in Alameda County Superior Court, but it is the latest in a string of jury verdicts that involve the company’s talcum powder products and mesothelioma. Such trials are separate from those that allege the same products caused ovarian cancer.
A representative for Johnson & Johnson was quick to vow the company’s determination to appeal the $29.5 million verdict and went on to denounce the outcome.
Ultimately, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers regarding the safety risks posed by its talcum powder and that the company’s deception and concealment played a contributory role in Mrs. Leavitt’s mesothelioma. The jury found that Johnson & Johnson was responsible for 98 percent of liability in the case and that Cyprus Mines Corp. – the other talc-supply company – was responsible for the remaining 2 percent of liability.
At trial, Teresa Leavitt and Dean McElroy were represented by Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC, and by Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg, LLP.