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J&J settles Calif. court case claiming asbestos in talc caused cancer

Johnson & Johnson has settled for an undisclosed amount with plaintiffs in a California court case who claimed that the pharmaceutical giant's talc baby powder product contained cancer-causing asbestos.

The company faces thousands of lawsuits claiming that asbestos in its talcum powder has caused fatal cancers. Talcum powder is mined in close proximity to asbestos. The presence of the known carcinogen has been linked to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Plaintiffs in the Alameda County case were Linda and Mark O'Hagan, who said Linda O'Hagan's mesothelioma was caused by exposure to the baby powder. J&J confirmed the settlement in a statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence on Jan. 6. The company has denied all wrongdoing.

"The decision to resolve any particular case in no way changes our overall position that our talc is safe, is asbestos free and does not cause cancer," a spokesperson from J&J said in an email. "Multiple juries in the U.S. have reached this conclusion in recent months, including juries in the last four talc trials."

In a separate California court Jan. 6, a Solano County judge dismissed a case brought against J&J that also claimed its baby powder caused a man's mesothelioma. The judge ruled that the plaintiff failed to establish the fact that asbestos had traveled from the mine to the product sold in stores.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found in October that a bottle of J&J's baby powder contained asbestos. J&J recalled a batch of the product at the time, later saying that its own tests showed no presence of the harmful mineral.

In December 2019, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky did not testify before the U.S. House of Representatives during a hearing regarding the existence of asbestos in the company's baby powder.