A New Jersey man has been awarded $117 million in damages after filing a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (J & J), claiming that he developed cancer from his 20-year use of its talc-based products.
Stephen Lanzo, 46, sued the company and its supplier Imerys Talc America, a unit of Imerys S.A., after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in his lungs. The 46-year-old alleged that the company knew its talc-based products were contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos but that they did not warn the public about it, reported 7News.
A New Jersey state court jury ordered the companies on Wednesday, April 11, to pay an additional $80 million in punitive damages to Lanzo after awarding him and his wife $37 million in compensatory damages during the first stage of the trial last Thursday, April 5.
J & J was ordered to pay $55 million and the Imerys unit to pay $25 million of the punitive damages awarded, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.
Both companies have defended the safety of their talc-based products.
J & J denied that its talc-based consumer products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder, contained asbestos or caused cancer.
In a statement, the company said it would immediately begin appealing the verdict, adding that it had been prevented from presenting important evidence to the jury.
“After suffering multiple losses through court rulings and at trial, plaintiff’s attorneys have shifted their strategy and are now alleging that talcum powder is contaminated with asbestos,” the company said.
Imerys Talc America also issued a similar statement, denying the allegations and adding that it was considering to appeal the verdict.
“The evidence is clear that [Lanzo’s] asbestos exposure came from different sources,” the statement said.
Lanzo said he developed mesothelioma after inhaling dust that was generated through his regular use of J & J talc powder products since his birth in 1972.
“We are gratified that justice was achieved and that our clients will be fairly compensated,” Moshe Maimon, Lanzos’s lawyer, said in a statement.
The decision marks the first trial loss for J & J over allegations that its talc-based consumer products contain asbestos. The company claims that it has conducted extensive testing on its talcum-based products to ensure that they do not contain the cancer-causing material, reported 7News.
J & J also faces other talc-related lawsuits by 6,610 plaintiffs across the United States, largely based on claims it failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer by using its products for feminine hygiene.
Mesothelioma is an agressive and potentially deadly form of cancer often linked with asbestos exposure. It affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities, most often around the lungs but also in the abdomen and other organs.
Reuters contributed to this report