According to Bloomberg Law, a California jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay $18.8 million to Anthony Hernandez Valadez, who claims the company's talc-based baby powder exposed him to asbestos and caused his mesothelioma. This ruling could undermine the $8.9 billion proposed settlement offered in April 2023 by the company's subsidiary, LTL Management. Valadez's case was permitted to proceed due to his deteriorating health.
Valadez's is the first trial since J&J halted talc-related litigation two years ago in LTL Management's controversial bankruptcy filing, CVN reported. The California verdict could influence votes against the proposed settlement due to its inadequacy; per the source, had Valadez settled, he would have been awarded $50,000. This could sway individuals in the tens of thousands of other cases to also pursue claims in front of a jury, pressuring the judge overseeing the case.
Bloomberg reported J&J will appeal the verdict based on "erroneous" rulings by the judge that, per Erik Haas, the company’s worldwide VP of litigation, prevented the company from sharing that Valadez’s rare form of mesothelioma was not caused by the baby powder. "Without that evidence, the verdict is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer." The verdict award will reportedly not be paid while the bankruptcy proceeding continues.
J&J, in the meantime, is suing four doctors who published studies linking talc-based personal care and cancer, per Reuters. The company alleges they used "junk science" and it is asking the court to force the researchers to retract or issue corrections on the studies. According to Fierce Pharma, J&J stated, “The Emory article demonstrates plaintiffs’ experts’ tactics to pollute the scientific literature."
While the company stands by its science, it is ending the global sales of baby powder containing mineral starch and switching to a formula based on corn starch, BMJ reports.