Johnson & Johnson reached a confidential settlement resolving an Oklahoma lawsuit alleging its iconic baby powder caused a 77-year-old woman to develop a rare cancer connected to asbestos exposure.
The accord comes the same day the company was cleared by a New Jersey jury of a similar claim and two weeks after a jury in Oakland, California, awarded $29 million to a dying woman who blamed asbestos in J&J talc for causing her cancer.
It’s unusual for J&J, which is facing thousands of talc-related damage lawsuits, to resolve them during or before trial. The company in December reached a confidential settlement in a New York case headed for trial.
The Oklahoma City plaintiff, Sharon Pipes, was diagnosed in 2017 with peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the abdomen, an illness generally connected to asbestos exposure. She used Johnson & Johnson’s talc products for 50 years, her attorneys said at trial.
Oklahoma District Judge Susan Stallings announced the settlement to the courtroom Wednesday after jurors had been deliberating for more than three hours. When one juror asked what the settlement was, the judge answered, “It’s confidential.”
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Plaintiff’s attorney Jessica Dean said she couldn’t comment on the settlement. A J&J spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment.
J&J has denied that its talc products are laced with asbestos and disputed any responsibility for Pipes’s cancer.
J&J is facing more than 13,000 lawsuits linking baby powder and another talc product, Shower to Shower, to ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. More than two dozen trials have been scheduled in U.S. courts in 2019.
The company’s record at trial has been mixed so far. Several of the first trials resulted in plaintiffs’ verdicts, including one for more than $4 billion in St. Louis in 2018 to 22 women with ovarian cancer. But J&J has been able to win reversals of three of the first five jury awards.
The company has also won recent defense verdicts in cases alleging links between baby powder and mesothelioma, including one Wednesday in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Some of the verdicts include awards against J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys America, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February.
In the New Jersey case, the jury unanimously found that J&J’s talc didn’t contain asbestos and wasn’t responsible for plaintiff Ricardo Rimondi developing mesothelioma.
“This is the third verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson in recent months,” said company spokeswoman Kim Montagnino. “All of the talc-related verdicts against Johnson & Johnson that have been through the appeals process, every one has been overturned.”
Rimondi was disappointed with the jury’s decision, “particularly in light of the overwhelming scientific and documentary evidence supporting the claims of the Rimondi family that J&J’s talcum-powder is laced with asbestos,” Monica Cooper, his attorney, said in an emailed message.
The Oklahoma case is Pipes v. Johnson & Johnson, CJ-2017-3487, District Court, Oklahoma Co., Oklahoma (Oklahoma City). The New Jersey case is Rimondi v. BASF Catalysts, L-002912-17, Superior Court, Middlesex Co., New Jersey.