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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

Feds Launch Criminal Talc-Asbestos Investigation


A Washington, D.C. grand jury is exploring allegations that Johnson & Johnson knew the talcum powder it sold may have been laced with asbestos. If the grand jury finds these allegations are true, the pharmaceutical giant could face incredibly stiff criminal penalties.

The company, which faces about 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits, said it had received subpoenas, but officials declined to comment further. Although the company continues to deny that there is a link between talcum powder and asbestos poisoning, internal memos which have recently been made public seem to suggest otherwise.

Although baby powder accounts for only a small percentage of company revenue, it has been a core product for more than 100 years, and J&J is determined to protect its brand name.

Talc, Asbestos, and Serious Injury

From a chemical standpoint, talc and asbestos are very closely related. Both minerals are very fibrous and prized for their insulating qualities. Additionally, miners often find these substances next to each other. So, it is not too surprising that tiny asbestos fibers find their way into talc-based consumer products.

Roughly 20,000 asbestos fibers can fit in the space between Abraham Lincoln’s nose and mouth on a U.S. penny. These microscopic asbestos fibers are small enough to absorb directly through the skin. Just one of these toxic fibers is enough to cause diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Mesothelioma is cancer that forms in the heart-lung lining. This rare and aggressive form of cancer is difficult to diagnose and, once it reaches an advanced stage, almost impossible to treat. Asbestosis is lung scarring. These victims have trouble breathing, even when they are resting. A radical lung transplant is the only effective way to treat asbestosis, and even that may not be enough.

Those talc-based consumer products include Johnson & Johnson talcum powder. Internal memos indicate that J&J execs may have known about the asbestos-talc link, yet they did nothing to address it, fearing that public attention would decrease sales of this popular product.

Specifically, there is a link between asbestos and ovarian cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death among women.

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that caregivers should not use talcum powder on babies. Just like asbestos may cause breathing problems in adults, it may also cause such problems in infants.

In 2017, several makeup and other cosmetic products, specifically some products marketed to young girls, tested positive for asbestos. These manufacturers sometimes use talc to make the product smoother. Based on this evidence, the Food and Drug Administration asked several retailers, including Claire’s and Justice, to voluntarily recall cosmetics with talc. They agreed to do so.

Your Claim for Damages

Under Florida law, product makers are strictly liable for any damages their products cause due to a:

  • Design defect or
  • Manufacturing defect.

The first talcum powder lawsuits focused on a design defect. Experts testified that there was a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Many of these initial lawsuits did not fare very well, as some jurors were skeptical about such claims. Additionally, J&J routinely called its own experts who testified that talc was safe.

Then, the asbestos investigations started, and everything changed for Tampa personal injury attorneys.

Due to a lack of quality control at J&J, legal theories shifted to a manufacturing defect. In other words, as designed, talcum powder was safe. But during the manufacturing process, asbestos fibers found their way into talcum powder canisters. This link was easier to establish in court, and much more difficult for J&J to deny.

As a result, the damage awards in these cases have increased dramatically. But that’s not the only reason. J&J’s callous disregard for customer safety prompts many jurors to award additional punitive damages. A Missouri jury recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a staggering $4.7 billion in punitive damages. The company is appealing.

Contact Aggressive Lawyers

If you used talcum powder and suffered injury, now is a good time to reach out to an attorney. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.

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