Thank you, Christina!
If ever joy could be extracted from tragedy, the details of a California jury verdict (Case No. RG20061303 Christina Prudencio v. Johnson & Johnson), filed on August 23, 2021 at the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, could be the source. The six-page document listing jury responses to a series of questions set by the Court and damages awarded contains phrases and findings that bring solace to all of us who have been working to advance human health even as multinational corporations continue to exploit vulnerable populations the world over.
When nursery school teacher Christina Prudencio was diagnosed in 2020 with the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma, she was just 34 years old.1 Until she was 16, Johnson & Johnsons talc-based baby powder which was contaminated with asbestos fibers had been a regular feature of her life. Even when she stopped using it, toxic exposures continued as her siblings were regular users.
On June 15, 2021 the trial began on Zoom of the case Ms. Prudencio brought against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. On August 23, the jury verdict was filed awarding her $26,472,967 in compensatory damages; a few days later she was awarded $100,000 in punitive damages making the total verdict over $26.5 million with 85% of the damages allocated to J&J and 15% to its subsidiary.2
The arguments of Ms. Prudencios legal team were well-honed after other successful toxic talc trials in California and New Jersey. The clarity of the presentation and the testimony of the expert witnesses confirmed that J&J had known as early as 1971 that the talc it used contained asbestos fibers. The fact that, despite this knowledge, sales continued unabated until 2020 must have come as a shock to jury members as can be seen by the decisions they took.3 As lawyer Joseph Satterly of Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood told them:
A reasonable company, being told that [its product contained asbestos], would stop, take the product off the marketplace. Lets study it; lets look at it; lets see if theres really carcinogens in our product. Thats what a reasonable company does.
The members of the jury agreed with him as evidenced by their findings (for each defendant) that:
The jury was satisfied that the plaintiffs legal team had presented clear and convincing evidence that the conduct constituting malice or oppression was committed or authorized by one of [sic] more of the officers, directors, or managing agents of both defendants
Commenting on these findings, Joe Satterley said:
J&J engaged in outrageous conduct for over 50 years by allowing carcinogens to remain in their baby products. They have lied about it for years and continue to misrepresent the truth. The jury witnessed those lies and the misconduct. Justice occurred in the jurys finding, but nothing can replace what Christina Prudencio has been through in her fight against Mesothelioma.
Christina Prudencios bravery in engaging in this titanic struggle against a global colossus whilst fighting for her life against a deadly cancer will inspire others at home and abroad. Wherever in the world J&Js toxic talc was/is sold, there will be other Christinas. The most effective way to change the iniquitous behaviour and double standards of Johnson & Johnson and other corporate criminals is to hit them with punitive judgments and hefty fines. Money is the only currency they seem to understand.
September 7, 2021
1 Edwards, J. Jury Awards $26.5M to Cancer Patient Suing Johnson & Johnson Over Baby Powder. August 26, 2021.
2 The sum of $800,000 for past medical costs had been agreed prior to the verdict being reached.
3 Whilst sales of J&Js talc-based baby powder were terminated in the U.S. and Canada in 2020, this product is still being sold in markets outside North America.
Kazan-Allen, L. Johnson & Johnson Reality Check 2021! September 1, 2021.