Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive were hit with a $12 million verdict by a California jury after finding that the companies’ talcum powders contained asbestos, a known carcinogen, which likely contributed to a woman’s deadly mesothelioma diagnosis, Law360 reported.
The ruling came after five days of deliberation in the case of Patricia Schmidtz, who claimed she had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower body powder as well as Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet for years. Last year, Schmitz, 61, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops up to 50 years after asbestos exposure.
Talc, a mineral, is mined from the earth in similar fashion and proximity as asbestos.
The jury found both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive were responsible for negligence, a design defect, failure to warn and concealment. But, jurors were unable to conclude whether the companies had acted with “malice, oppression or fraud,” which saved the companies from shouldering any punitive damages. And while Schmidtz’ attorneys fought to hit Johnson & Johnson with intentional representation for promoting its talcum powders as safe despite knowing it could contain asbestos, the jurors weren’t convinced.
Jurors hit Johnson & Johnson with 30% of the blame, its subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., with 10%, and Colgate-Palmolive with 40%. Jurors also found non-party Avon Products Inc., 20% responsible.
The trial is one of thousands of cases that allege companies knowingly sold talcum powder laced with asbestos, which contributed to cancer diagnoses. Johnson & Johnson, in particular, is facing more than 12,000 lawsuits linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower to cases of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
Recent trials alleging Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-tainted powder caused mesothelioma has resulted in several multimillion verdicts, including a $325 million verdict awarded to a woman last month by a New York jury.