Back in 1997, our client Darlene Coker was diagnosed with mesothelioma
at the age of 52. With the assistance of co-counsel, Herschel Hobson,
Roger Worthington and our firm investigated Darlene’s past for exposure
to asbestos-containing products, the majority of which were used in industrial,
commercial, and military settings. An operator of a massage school, Darlene
had no exposure to these types of products. Darlene did, however, regularly
use Johnson’s Baby Powder throughout her life.
Having handled cases on behalf of hundreds of workers exposed to asbestos
from industrial talc used in the making of tires, it was suspected that
asbestos in Baby Powder was responsible for Darlene’s cancer. Research
revealed that talc used for cosmetic talc products like Johnson’s
Baby Powder, was sourced from the same mines as talc used for industrial
talc. Also, reports from the testing of cosmetic talc, in general, revealed
that many cosmetic talc products contained asbestos.
A lawsuit was filed against J&J later that year. It was the first known
case in which it was claimed that asbestos in J&J Baby Powder caused
a plaintiff’s mesothelioma.
J&J denied responsibility, asserting that its Baby Powder was asbestos-free.
J&J avoided producing the results of internal talc testing and other
company records requested in the case. After nearly two years of litigation,
and being stonewalled from evidence of asbestos found in Baby Powder,
Darlene’s case against J&J was dismissed.
Nearly 20 years later, Reuters News published an investigative report on
December 14, 2018 concluding that:“Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder
Reuters based its report on a review of documents which J&J was compelled
to produce in recent cases, as well as deposition and trial testimony
in these cases. It said the review showed that from 1971 to the early
2000s, J&J executives, mine managers, doctors and lawyers were aware
the company's raw talc and finished powders tested positive for asbestos.
Those involved discussed the problem, but they did not disclose it to
regulators or the public, Reuters' examination found.
We applaud Reuters reporter Lisa Girion for her comprehensive presentation
of the evidence which has finally come to light on this matter. The evidence
is the result of a 20+ year effort on the part of asbestos cancer victims’
attorneys, beginning with the Darlene Coker case, and including many recent
cases involving our clients.
This evidence is of grave importance to the public and will be key to obtaining
some measure of justice for those, like Darlene Coker, who never could
have imagined that using J&J Baby Powder could place them at risk
for developing deadly mesothelioma cancer.
Asbestos litigation has a long and sordid history of asbestos product manufacturers
trying to cover up their misdeeds. It appears that J&J is but the
latest example. We are confident that, like the others, J&J will ultimately
be held to account to customers, cancer patients, regulators, and shareholders
for its atrocious behavior.