A woman with terminal cancer brought a lawsuit for negligence against two companies: Colgate and Johnson & Johnson. The jury from Alameda County, California found that products produced by the two companies probably caused the woman’s terminal cancer. As a result, the jury awarded the woman $12 million in damages from the two companies.
The jurors focused on three products made by Colgate and Johnson & Johnson. They were the “Shower to Shower” and baby powder products made by Johnson, and the “Cashmere Bouquet” made by Colgate. The jury found that it was likely that all three of the products contained asbestos. Asbestos is known to be a cause of a type of cancer called mesothelioma, which the woman has.
The jury also decided that these two companies were aware that the products contained asbestos. Even though they knew about the problem, the companies chose not to warn the people who bought the product about the dangers of asbestos. This means that the jury found that they were negligent, but they couldn’t decide if they acted with malice. If they had found that the companies acted with malice, the woman could have also gotten punitive damages, or an extra charge as a form of punishment.
This is not the only case of its kind. Johnson & Johnson has been found liable for cancer and forced to pay damages in four recent cases. However, they have also been found not liable in five similar recent cases. There are still thousands of similar cases waiting to go to trial around the country. The company plans to appeal the decision in this case so they can have the arguments heard by a new set of judges. Colgate also plans to appeal the decision, and also said that they have not sold the Cashmere Bouquet product since 1995.
A spokesperson for Colgate says they believe the decision does not make sense based on the facts and evidence from trial. The company also feels that their legal team was put at a disadvantage by some of the decisions from the judge. One such decision was to limit the amount of testimony allowed by one of Colgate’s health representatives.
An investigation by Reuters from late last year found that Johnson & Johnson knew that their baby powder tested positive for asbestos from time to time. The report also claims that the company covered up these findings on purpose and sold the baby powder anyway. The documents from court say that this had been a company practice since 1971, although it is notable that most of the baby powder did not contain asbestos.
The legal team from Johnson & Johnson say that they are confident that this decision will be reversed by the court of appeals. They said the same thing after a similar decision where a jury awarded $29 million to a woman with mesothelioma in March. A spokesperson for the company said they will appeal because they believe that their products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer. They went on to say that the company has done extensive testing over decades to make sure their products are safe for use, and the evidence behind that means that the court of appeals should reverse the decision.