Damages of $120M in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Case

A New York state judge recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $120 million in damages to a Brooklyn woman suffering from cancer after asbestos exposure from the decades-long use of baby powder (Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $120 million damages in New York baby powder case). The amount was reduced by New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits of Manhattan from the original $325 million awarded by a jury after a 14-week trial.

Although the judge upheld the jury’s finding of liability, he ruled that the damages were excessive and the plaintiff could either accept the lowered figure or undergo a new damages trial. The new damages amount consists of compensatory damages of $15 million and punitive damages of $105 million. 

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict because of “significant legal and evidentiary errors” during the trial. “We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important,” the company said in a statement. “We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos free, and does not cause cancer.”

Jerome Block, an attorney for the plaintiff, indicated satisfaction with the judge’s ruling and expressed confidence it would remain in place. Block stated that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma “is at an advanced stage, and we are hoping for the best.”

The plaintiff had testified at trial to daily use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for over 50 years. Judge Lebovits wrote in his ruling that the jury could find that Johnson & Johnson, over a period of decades, was “knowingly deceitful about” or “willfully blind to” the potential danger to users of its talc products, as part of its desire to maximize profits and market share.

Johnson & Johnson has been subject to increased scrutiny regarding the safety of its talc-based products in part because of a 2018 investigative report by Reuters that determined that the company has known about the existence of asbestos in its talc for many years. Evidence including internal company records and testimony from various trials shows that Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and manufactured powders have tested positive for asbestos since at least 1971. 

If you have mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, or another form of cancer and have been exposed to products containing talc, please call Davis, Bethune & Jones at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will ensure that your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.

Supreme Court: Lost Railroad Wages Are Taxable

The United States Supreme Court recently held that payments to an injured employee for lost wages are taxable compensation under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) (High Court Calls Lost Wages Taxable in 7-2 Railway Ruling). The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the railroad iBNSF Railway Company v. Loos, allowing the withholding of part of the employee’s lost wages to cover RRTA taxes.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion cited the 1946 decision Social Security Bd. v. Nierotko, which held that an award of back pay to an employee constituted wages under the Social Security Act. Our decision in Nierotko undermines Loos’s argument that, unlike sick pay and vacation pay, payments ‘compensat[ing] for an injury,’ are not taxable under the RRTA,” Ginsburg wrote. “Applying that reasoning here, there should be no dispositive difference between a payment voluntarily made and one required by law.”

In a somewhat surprising development, the liberal wing of the Court was joined by new Republican appointee Brett Kavanaugh in a decision that favored a huge railroad company at the expense of the little guy. And in another twist, Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by the ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, penned a dissent defending the employee against the railroad behemoth.

While Ginsburg seems to have accepted BNSF’s claim that a ruling in its favor would help ensure the solvency of the federal railroad retirement system, Gorsuch notes that paying more in taxes now will ultimately allow BNSF to pay less to injured employees. “Railroads like BSNF can now sweeten their settlement offers while offering less money,” Gorsuch wrote. “Employees will pay a tax for going to trial – and railroads will succeed in buying cheaper settlements in the future at the bargain basement price of a few thousand dollars in excise taxes in one case today.”

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has generally been friendly to business and hostile to workers. The recent appointments by President Trump should only be expected to make things worse. But this case shows that you can’t always count on even the liberal justices to fight for the rights of workers against big business. If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.