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J&J, Colgate Ordered to Pay Almost $10 Million in Talc Case

June 12, 2019
A state-court jury concluded Wednesday the companies’ body powders were a cause of Patricia Schmitz’s mesothelioma, a cancer specifically linked to asbestos exposure.

Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive Co. must pay almost $10 million to a dying California woman who blamed the companies’ talc-based products for her rare cancer, a jury said. The verdict is another setback for J&J, the world’s largest maker of health-care products.

A state-court jury concluded Wednesday the companies’ body powders were a cause of Patricia Schmitz’s mesothelioma, a cancer specifically linked to asbestos exposure. Schmitz, a former fifth-grade teacher, told jurors she applied either J&J’s Baby Powder or Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet for most of her life after showering. The jury rejected her claim for punitive damages.

Jurors determined J&J and Colgate were each 40 % responsible for Schmitz’s illness -- amounting to about $4.8 million in damages against each company. The jury also concluded Avon Products Inc. was responsible for about $2.4 million in damages based on Schmitz’s testimony about purchasing Avon products as a young woman. Avon wasn’t named as a defendant in the case.

It’s J&J second trial loss in two weeks in cases accusing the firm of hiding the health risks of its talcum powder. J&J faces more than 14,000 claims that its powders caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The company faces trials around the country over the claims, but has asked a federal judge to halt the litigation and bring the cases to Delaware.

Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said the company would appeal the verdict because it steadfastly maintains its baby powder doesn’t contain asbestos or cause cancer.

“There were serious procedural and evidentiary errors in the proceeding that required us to move for mistrial on multiple occasions and we believe provide strong grounds for appeal,” she said in an emailed statement.

The verdict is the 11th win for plaintiffs since trials over cancer claims tied to J&J’s talc-based powders began in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

J&J has won seven defense verdicts while jurors deadlocked in three other cases. The company also settled four cases. Some of the plaintiffs’ verdicts have been overturned while others are still on appeal.

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