A New York appellate court reversed a 2019 award of $120 million in a mesothelioma case against Johnson & Johnson. The plaintiff, Donna Olson, claimed that her long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused her to develop mesothelioma.
The Original Ruling
In 2017, 67-year-old Donna Olson filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that accused the company’s talc-based products of exposing her to asbestos, thus giving her cancer. Olson has advanced stage mesothelioma that she argues stemmed from her daily use of J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for fifty years. This lawsuit is one of the many that allege the company knew about the presence of asbestos in its talc-based products and the cancer risks for consumers for years without informing the public.
After a 12-week long trial in 2019, a New York jury initially awarded Olson $325 million against Johnson & Johnson. $300 million for punitive damages, $20 million towards past and future pain and suffering, and the remaining $5 million was awarded to Olson’s husband. However, Justice Gerald Lebovits of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan reduced the $325 verdict to $120 million after citing that the damages were too high. Despite the reduction, the judge still upheld the jury’s liability ruling.
$120 Million Mesothelioma Verdict Reversed
Johnson & Johnson appealed the $120 million verdict on the basis of what the company deemed significant legal and evidentiary errors at trial. J&J argued that Olson’s legal team presented insufficient evidence compared to the verdict granted. On July 19, 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division agreed and reversed the order. The appellate court’s decision absolves Johnson & Johnson of liability in Olson’s case, and the company will pay nothing. In its statement, the appellate court stated the plaintiffs failed “to establish
sufficient exposure to a substance to cause the claimed adverse health effect.” Furthermore, the decision concluded that the plaintiff’s medical expert’s testimony that mesothelioma could have resulted from “a significant exposure above normal background levels” was inadequate.
Ongoing Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Litigation
Despite the unfavorable outcome for this particular lawsuit, there are still over 37,000 talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson in MDL-2738.