For years, Johnson & Johnson has claimed that its baby powder is safe and contains no asbestos contamination. However, internal memos uncovered by investigators make it clear that Johnson & Johnson was aware of contamination going back decades.
They may have directly chosen not to close mines that they knew to have asbestos contamination in talc deposits. They may also have conducted chemical tests that showed proof positive of contamination. Some internal memos even contain discussion by executives reflecting on the fact that the contamination levels would be within the legal range established for inhalation by miners, thus rendering the contamination a non-issue.
Many lawsuits have claimed that Johnson & Johnson is responsible for a variety of cancers because of asbestos contamination. Both mesothelioma and ovarian cancer have known correlations with asbestos exposure. Now, the federal government has gotten involved in this situation following bombshell reports on the issue by major media outlets.
A subpoena for internal records could impact future court cases
While Johnson & Johnson has always maintained that its products are safe, consumers and juries aren't agreeing with them anymore. Even the government seems unconvinced by the company's claims of innocence.
Both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission want to know the truth. Federal investigations into Johnson & Johnson, announced on February 21, 2019, make it clear that the health and beauty giant can no longer shirk responsibility for unscrupulous behavior.
The market was quick to respond to the federal investigation, with Johnson & Johnson stock dropping in price after the announcement of the investigations. Currently, Federal investigators aren't speaking as to the incentive for or focus of their investigations. However, the millions of people who have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder on themselves or their children will no doubt watch what develops in these investigations carefully.
Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of pending lawsuits related to talc
There are currently around 1,800 pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson related to contaminated talc powder. The company has had some minor wins in court recently, mostly all on technicalities. They have also suffered some major judgments against the company.
Of course, instead of admitting fault and making good on the damage caused to those who have won lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson wants to appeal all the decisions that hold them accountable for medical damages correlated to their products. Depending on what regulators find, the outcome of the investigation could facilitate the lawsuits of those harmed by contaminated talc powder in the future.
It will be much harder to deny knowledge of contamination if these subpoenas find evidence of an intentional cover-up by the company. Consumers who believe their current medical condition reflects an issue caused by talc powder contamination will want to monitor the federal investigation closely.