It’s soft, powdery, sweet-smelling — and, says a New Jersey jury, deadly.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $37 million in the case of a man who said he got cancer from the company’s baby powder, which he believes contained talc laced with asbestos.
Banker Stephen Lanzo III was awarded $30 million in compensatory damages Thursday by a New Brunswick, N.J., jury. Lanzo’s wife, Kendra, got $7 million.
Lanzo, 46, said he used Johnson & Johnson talc-based powder products for more than 30 years.
He claimed that by inhaling dust from the products that contained cancer-causing asbestos, he contracted mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.
The jury found J&J responsible for 70 percent of the damages and a division of France-based talc supplier Imerys was responsible for 30 percent.
Lanzo’s case was the first to go to trial in New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson’s home state. The jury sat barely a mile from J&J headquarters.
J&J is fighting thousands of lawsuits claiming its talc products also cause ovarian cancer.
Talc itself is not believed to be cancerous. It’s a mineral made up mainly of magnesium, silicon and oxygen.
But talc is often mined near asbestos, which is long proven to cause mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. Mesothelioma is almost always fatal.
Johnson & Johnson and other companies say that since the 1970s, they’ve kept asbestos out of their baby powders and other talc products.
J&J denied the lawsuit’s charges and said its products — such as Johnson’s Baby Powder — doesn’t contain asbestos or cause cancer.
During the trial, J&J lawyers claimed Lanzo could have contracted mesothelioma from other sources, said media reports. It noted that the house in Montclair where he grew up once had asbestos-wrapped pipes, and that the public schools attended were also treated for asbestos.
“While we are disappointed with this decision, the jury has further deliberations to conduct in this trial and we will reserve additional comment until the case is fully completed,” Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement.
The jury will begin a second phase of the trial to consider punitive damages on Tuesday.
J&J faces talc-related lawsuits by 6,610 plaintiffs around the country, Reuters reports.
The claims are largely based on allegations that the company failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer by using its products for feminine hygiene.
A Los Angeles judge in October tossed a $417 million verdict for a woman who said she got ovarian cancer from J&J talc products.