Mass torts involving asbestos and baby powder gain a foothold

It turns out that Tennessee and the rest of the country face a new kind of asbestos-related threat to the public's physical health. In a recent case, a man sued Johnson & Johnson for allegedly causing his cancer due to his long-term use of baby powder. A jury recently awarded him $117 million in damages in an outcome that could give birth to another chapter of mass torts claims in the United States and perhaps worldwide.  

The claim is directly related to a form of cancer that is caused by asbestos. In the trial, the man proved that the baby powder had been contaminated with asbestos. That proof also may be used in thousands of cases where the baby powder and Shower to Shower products are alleged to have caused ovarian cancer. The proof came from the company's own documents showing that J & J knew ahead of time that the asbestos in their talcum powder had been tainted widely with asbestos during the mining process and that it has been occurring at least since the 1970s.

The company still vehemently denies that its products could cause cancer, despite the now public nature of its internal documents. The company denies that the documents prove that asbestos contaminated its talcum. Although the company insists that their product was never contaminated, the jury believed the scientific experts whom the plaintiff put on the stand during the trial.

The case involved the man's contraction of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer directly tied to asbestos. The asbestos cases have a substantial foundation in the United States, with scientific proof now established beyond debate. The challenge going forward will possibly center on distinguishing between cases of cancer tied to the baby powder and cases that are unrelated. Mass torts dealing with asbestos and mesothelioma continue to be a substantial source of litigation in the country, including in Tennessee.

Source:, "J&J Baby Powder litigation takes new focus with asbestos claims", Tina Bellon, April 16, 2018

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