82-year-old Blanca Mure-Cabrera had used Johnson’s Baby Powder for most of her life. And, based on a Florida jury’s decision, doing so was a direct contributor to her development of mesothelioma – a cancer of the lungs that is directly attributed to asbestos exposure. Had the healthcare goods manufacturer’s flagship product not been tainted with asbestos, Ms. Mure-Cabrera could have been spared a lung cancer diagnosis.
The result is a $9 million verdict that Johnson & Johnson has promised to appeal. And, if the corporation’s 2020 track record is any sort of indicator, it might be issuing many more similar statements. With the new year barely into its third month, the Florida decision is already J&J’s second loss. The previous case involved four plaintiffs and initially led to a punitive damage award of some three quarters of a billion dollars. The award was later reduced; however, the jury’s decision about J&J’s role was left intact.
Johnson & Johnson continues to deny that its talc contains asbestos. Yet, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see these denials as anything other than empty rhetoric from a corporation trying to salvage what is left of its reputation. The headlines tell a much darker and less confident story.
J&J’s denials of the presence of asbestos in its talc products in the face of what is becoming overwhelming evidence to the contrary was the topic of a criminal probe last year. A grand jury was convened to determine how much the corporation knew and when they knew it. And according to internal J&J documents, they knew everything, and they’d known it for decades.
The FDA knew about it as well yet incredibly, if not unsurprisingly, yielded to pressure from talc and other executives and failed to act. In fact, one could argue that the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of the items Americans bring into their homes to keep themselves and their families healthy bent over backwards to allow as much talc-based asbestos into our homes as their corporate overlords – including those at Johnson & Johnson – wanted them to.