A New Jersey state jury Wednesday slammed Johnson & Johnson with $37.3 million in combined compensatory damages over claims four people developed mesothelioma by using the pharmaceutical giant’s baby powder.
Soon after kicking off the third full day of deliberations in the nearly two-month trial, the jury handed down those verdicts, deciding the company’s talc products contained asbestos and that exposure to the toxic mineral in the products was a substantial factor in causing the fatal disease in plaintiffs D’Angela McNeill-George, Will Ronning, Douglas Barden and David Etheridge.
During testimony that began July 15, the parties offered competing takes on internal company communications and asbestos testing conducted on talc sourced from Italy and Vermont mines and on the finished product itself.
Expert medical witnesses testifying on behalf of the company disputed the alleged link between the disease and the product and opined that the plaintiffs developed it spontaneously. A J&J corporate representative claimed the talc only contained nonasbestos versions of certain minerals.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that corporate executives covered up findings of asbestos in the product, and slammed J&J’s reliance on studies showing that miners and millers who worked with the talc didn’t develop the disease, saying the studies excluded the oldest workers and didn’t follow up with others.
In their own testimony, the plaintiffs described breathing in dust clouds of the product throughout their usage of it. They all have peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdomen.