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Johnson & Johnson Targeted by a Department of Justice Criminal Probe Over Baby Powder Cancer Claims

October 20 2019 | Blog
  • As the number of civil lawsuits related to Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder cancer claims reaches almost 14,000, the Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation over the company’s allegedly dishonest practices.

    Between record-amount compensation payouts to plaintiffs in Monsanto’s Roundup cases and prolonged settlement negotiations in relation to Oxycontin’s Purdue Pharma, it seems that high-profile product liability cases have recently received more news and media coverage than ever before. Without a doubt, large American companies have come into increased scrutiny in the past few years, resulting in thousands of lawsuits and compensation claims for dishonest marketing strategies, a reckless disregard for consumer safety and prioritizing profits over people.

    In recent years, one of the first corporations to make this infamous list of companies with dubious practices was the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. Since 2016, Johnson & Johnson has faced a steadily growing number of civil lawsuits over claims related to talcum-based baby powder, one of the company’s most well-known products. In the lawsuits, whose number has now reached more than 14,000 in the U.S. alone, plaintiffs allege that the use of the company’s products caused them to develop ovarian cancer as well as mesothelioma, a rare and dangerous cancer of tissues covering internal organs. In nearly a dozen cases, juries across the country have decided to side with the plaintiffs and ordered the company to pay high compensation amounts including damages of $417 million in Los Angeles case in August of 2017. Additionally, the company has also reached multimillion-dollar settlements that totaled over $300 million, including a $110 million settlement in May of 2017.

    Now, the company has made the news again as it was reportedly targeted by a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation over claims that it lied to the public about baby powder cancer risks. If you or your family member suspect that you may have developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma due to Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder use, read on to learn how this developing story may affect your compensation claims.

    Federal Investigations Over Incriminating Memos

    Several news agencies and websites – including Bloomberg, Reuters, and Los Angeles Times, reported in August that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal probe into Johnson & Johnson and baby powder cancer claims. The probe is connected to a regulatory investigation by a grand jury in Washington that was formed earlier this year. While the company confirmed it has been cooperating with the grand jury investigation, it also maintains that there have been no new developments in this case.

    Both the grand jury and the U.S. DOJ are allegedly trying to verify and evaluate the claims the company has long known about the potential cancer claims related to its talcum-based products but decided to conceal it and lied to the public about it. While Johnson & Johnson has consistently maintained that its baby powder doesn’t cause cancer, the company’s internal memos from as far back as the 1960s and 1970s talk about the product’s potential contamination with asbestos and “severe health hazard” related to it.

    These internal memos have been the centerpiece of many recent lawsuits against the company. Asbestos has been a known carcinogen for decades and studies have found a strong correlation between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. This is relevant because talc – the mineral that’s the key ingredient of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder – is often in the same geological formations that contain asbestos. According to the memos, in the company’s internal analyses, some of its baby powder and other talcum-based products would from time to time positive for trace amounts of asbestos.

    How You May Be Affected

    It is not yet clear how the developing DOJ probe and the grand jury investigation will affect the ongoing civil cases against Johnson & Johnson. However, it may now be more difficult for the company to settle the claims as the plaintiffs and the lawyers representing them will likely wait for the results of these federal actions in order to gain leverage in settlement negotiations or even some more conclusive evidence of the company’s potential liability.

    If you or a family member have suffered from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma that can reasonably be attributed to baby powder or other talcum-based products use, you may benefit from consulting a lawyer. Please refer to our dedicated talcum powder injury cases page for more information.

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