Clarence Borel was an insulator who contracted mesothelioma and asbestosis after 33 years of asbestos exposure. His lawsuit filed in October of 1969 against multiple asbestos insulation manufacturers is considered the first victory for a plaintiff. Following the case being upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asbestos lawsuits filled the dockets of courts across the country.
Asbestos-related lawsuits are about to commemorate a tragic 50th anniversary. Already facing thousands of legal actions, the standard-bearer for healthcare products may be facing more serious consequences, potentially in criminal court.
U.S. Justice Department prosecutors, FBI agents, and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulators are looking into Johnson & Johnson’s alleged deceptive tactics, specifically hiding their knowledge of risks faced by customers using their talcum powder.
Baby powder made with talc is what made J&J a household name. Yet, it represents a small number in the company’s overall annual revenue flow. The number of legal actions against the product manufacturer is anything but small. Currently, the number of cases stands at more than 14,000. Total jury awards so far have surpassed $5 million.
Since the first lawsuit was filed against them, J&J continues to assert that the powders they sell are safe. They cite multiple tests reveal asbestos-free products. However, internal memos going back to the sixties belie that claim. Decades have passed since the company’s own scientists wrote that the asbestos in the talc represents a severe health hazard to customers, not to mention a legal nightmare for the company.
Troubles continue to mount for Johnson & Johnson as they face more choppy legal waters that could involve criminal penalties.