As courtroom losses mount, J&J seeks to limit reputational damage

The company faces more than 13,000 lawsuits claiming there’s asbestos in its talcum powder, posing serious risk to its image and financial future. How should it proceed?

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Johnson & Johnson hopes to win a potentially existential argument in the court of public opinion, despite mounting losses in the courtroom.

The company this week was ordered to pay $29 million to a woman who says the asbestos in her baby powder gave her cancer. J&J promises to appeal, citing procedural and evidentiary errors. If the company can’t right the ship, the costs could become staggering, with thousands of lawsuits remaining unresolved.

Reuters reported:

“We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product,” J&J said in a statement on Wednesday.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company denies that its talc causes cancer, saying numerous studies and tests by regulators worldwide have shown that its talc is safe and asbestos-free.

The lawsuit was brought by Terry Leavitt, who said she used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower – another powder containing talc sold by J&J in the past – in the 1960s and 1970s and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. It was the first of more than a dozen J&J talc cases scheduled for trial in 2019. The nine-week trial began on Jan. 7 and included testimony from nearly a dozen experts on both sides.

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