Claims that Johnson & Johnson’s famous talc-based baby powder has caused cancer are mounting. J&J pulled the product from shelves last month, but a look similar litigations suggest the talcum battle will last years or even decades.
Thousands of baby powder consumers who have developed ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other injuries are attributing their illness to J&J’s product. Cancer takes years to develop, which means new claims are expected to appear well into the future.
Asbestos settlements have demonstrated why diseases with a delayed onset make the lawsuit process more complicated. Lawyers in a mass tort litigation know that there will be more victims in the future but can only work with those who have already gotten sick. It also makes finding scientific evidence a longer and more rigorous endeavor.
The company’s decision to pull the product from shelves was very strategic, according to Jean Eggen, professor at Widener University Delaware Law School: “I felt J&J definitely is sending a strong signal that they’re interested in minimizing their litigation liabilities… I could see settlements in existing litigation as the next step.” Johnson & Johnson representatives have already denied that removing the product was related to the lawsuits.
It’s hard to predict how discontinuing the baby powder will play out in trial. The subsequent remedial measures doctrine says that removal of a defective product cannot be used to prove that the product was necessarily defective. On the other hand, jurors may still view the pull as damaging to the defendants.
Some asbestos companies have thoughtfully picked their battles, winning lung cancer claims but settling with mesothelioma lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson may go a similar route.
If you or someone you know has developed cancer or another injury after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, contact a talcum powder lawyer to see if you’re eligible for compensation.