NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier have been hit with a $37 million verdict in compensatory damages over claims that a New Jersey man contracted a deadly form of cancer from using the healthcare giant’s talc powder products that contained asbestos.
A jury in Middlesex County Superior court found New Brunswick-based J&J responsible for 70% of the damages in a Thursday decision after more than two months of trial. The panel found Imerys SA, the company’s the France-based talc supplier, responsible for the remaining 30% of damages.
Stephen Lanzo, now in his mid-40s, said he was exposed to asbestos by inhaling dust from J&J baby powder from approximately 1972 to roughly 2003, according to the court complaint in the civil case. He was diagnosed in 2016 with mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart as the result of asbestos fibers.
The jury delivered a verdict relatively quickly — on its first full day of deliberations. The panel’s decision awarded Lanzo $30 million and his wife $7 million.
The jurors are scheduled to return to court on Tuesday to decide whether to award punitive damages. Judge Ana Viscomi told the panel that further proceedings would take a day or two.
J&J denied Lanzo’s allegations and said Johson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. In a corporate statement, the company said it was “disappointed” with the verdict and would reserve further comment until the jury finishes all deliberations and “the case is fully completed.”
The New Jersey verdict marks the first trial loss for J&J in a lawsuit over claims that talc products contain cancer-causing asbestos, Reuters reported. Separately, the company has battled other court cases that charge its talc-containing products can cause ovarian cancer, allegations that J&J has similarly denied.