The Justice Department and the SEC are investigating Johnson & Johnson over concerns the company’s baby powder may have contained asbestos in addition to talc. J&J was subpoenaed in the wake of several jury trials that awarded millions in damages to plaintiffs who claimed the J&J’s talc products including Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder were tainted with asbestos and caused their cancers. The agencies seek documents that may shed more light on those matters and other suits Johnson & Johnson faces filed by shareholders and pension holders over the situation.
About 13,000 plaintiffs have filed claims in pending lawsuits involving talc-based body powders. “The Company is cooperating with these government inquiries and will be producing documents in response,” Johnson & Johnson said in an SEC filing Wednesday.
In some of the earliest trials that usually set a barometer for future settlement negotiations, state courts in New Jersey and California awarded damages to plaintiffs who claimed Johnson & Johnson talc products contained asbestos and caused their mesothelioma. In July, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women who said asbestos in the company’s talc powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. In the SEC filing, Johnson & Johnson said, “The Company believes that it has strong grounds on appeal to overturn these verdicts.” According to J&J, “Decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer. We intend to cooperate fully with these inquiries and will continue to defend the Company in the talc-related litigation.” This comes on the heels of reports in The New York Times and the Reuters business journal which revealed documents suggesting the company knew about the risk of asbestos in its powders for decades and sought to keep the issue quiet. If true, this is indicative or a decades-long effort by Johnson & Johnson to potentially mislead regulators and consumers about the safety its talc products, which may have resulted in long-term harm for men, women and children who used Johnson & Johnson baby powder.
The irony of all of this is that most people associate Johnson & Johnson baby powder with fond memories of babies (either being a baby yourself or washing and taking care of your baby) and of wholesomeness. Many other types of litigation, including the early asbestos litigation cases in the 1960’s uncovered industry knowledge of products that contained asbestos and the harm caused by asbestos inhalation. Documents uncovered in a series of early asbestos lawsuits indicated that for more than three decades the nation’s largest asbestos companies hid evidence about potentially fatal effects of asbestos exposure on millions of U.S. workers. Most significant among the files are letters during the 1930s and 1940s between Raybestos president Sumner Simpson and Johns-Manville attorney as well as letters between Simpson and the trade publication Asbestos known as the “Sumner Simpson Papers.” In one 1935 letter, for instance, an Asbestos editor asked permission of Simpson to publish an article on asbestosis, which had been studied and found harmful to workers in England but whose danger in the United States was being played down at the time by the U.S. asbestos industry.
This was the discovery that open the gates to recoveries for workers who were injured from working with or around asbestos-containing products such as pipe covering, insulation, boilers, fire brick, insulation clothing, flooring, ceiling tiles, heat-resistant paint, brake pads, couplings, mortar, cement, “mud” and many other types of building and insulation products.
For almost 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, personal injury, asbestos related litigation and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence of others in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area, including Alpharetta, Brookhaven, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or died due to asbestos exposure and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.