A New York state jury Friday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $300 million in punitive damages to a woman who claimed the consumer healthcare giant’s talc-containing products were contaminated with asbestos and contributed to her rare asbestos-related cancer diagnosis. Last week, the jury awarded the woman $25 million in compensatory damages, bringing the total damages to a startling $325 million, one of the highest talc verdicts in more than two years of litigation over J&J’s talc products.
The trial involved the case of Donna Olson, 66, and her husband, who sued the company alleging years of Olson using Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder made her ill. Olson was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction, shipbuilding and friction materials. The use of asbestos was limited in the U.S. in the 1980s after it was linked to mesothelioma and other diseases. Asbestos is mined from the earth in much the same fashion and proximity as talc.
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 14,000 lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. The company has steadfastly denied its products are dangerous. A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson said the company will appeal.
Johnson & Johnson is also facing litigation in another courtroom over deceptive marketing of its highly addictive opioid treatments. Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals were also set to stand trial with J&J, but Purdue settled with Oklahoma in March for $270 million and Teva settled last week for $85 million.