News Release

Mesothelioma from Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder

Share

Mesothelioma is an extremely rare and highly aggressive terminal cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. The average life expectancy is only 1-2 years post-diagnosis. The sole cause of the cancer is exposure to asbestos, which has been found in talc-based consumer goods like Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. Traditionally, people who worked close to asbestos, such as workers in union trades and ship building or mechanics, were those diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

SANDRA WEATHERS; for interviews, contact Lisa Burkert at lisa@thetascgroup.com
    Weathers is a 61-year-old mesothelioma patient represented by Suzanne Ratcliffe at MRHFM, a New York asbestos litigation firm. Weathers frequently used J&J’s baby powder on herself and her children.

Ratcliffe told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Sandra’s case is currently in limbo. The case was stayed for the duration of J&J’s first bankruptcy. The courts are now consolidating cases and setting them for trial. Sandra’s case is trial-ready, but it is still a long way away [from trial]. Sandra is doing okay––she’s hanging in.”

Ratcliffe noted that J&J is known for using a legal move called the Texas Two-Step, which allows the company to split itself into two separate entities, ring-fencing legal liabilities into a shell company while keeping its profitable businesses and assets in the parent company. The shell company moves to a bankruptcy-friendly state to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Texas Two-Step, Ratcliffe said, is a way “to avoid paying the people that [J&J] poisoned. This is a way for them to pay pennies on the dollar. J&J has said it will pay people through [the $8.9 billion trust fund that it proposed to settle its talc lawsuits]. But the fund will also need to pay out to any people who are diagnosed in the future. That boils down to only about $50,000 per claimant.

“Between J&J’s first and second bankruptcy, they moved a lot of money around. They may attempt some other maneuver next. They haven’t played all their cards.”

Weathers said that she began having pain in her side in 2018. She went to a series of doctors before she was ultimately diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2019. At that point, she began chemotherapy. “Everything was moving so fast,” she said. “They told me it was Stage 4. It had spread to my liver and my ribcage and the linings of my lungs.”

Weathers learned through the litigation process that there was asbestos in the baby powder she used. “I was shocked. How can [asbestos] be in baby powder? My mother used it on her children and on me when I was a baby, and then I used it on myself just as she had used it on me. As little children, [my brother and I] played in it––because it was so soft and silky and smooth and we liked the feel of it. Little did we know that it would come back to haunt me.”

Weathers became very ill when she started chemotherapy; her doctors ultimately put her on a few different treatments, including experimental ones. “Everything works for a little while and then it stops. There’s no cure for it. That’s so upsetting. I didn’t know what to expect with this disease. I didn’t know that cancer could push through my skin. [The doctors] had to train me how to care for it. I have to wash it, change the gauze, put on antibiotic ointment, and cover it up. It’s a terrible looking thing and they don’t know if it’s going to heal or if I will have to keep doing it for the rest of my life. It’s a scramble to save my life. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m afraid of hearing that there’s nothing else left to do. Meanwhile my husband and I are racking up medical bills and maxing out credit cards from flying across the country to get me treated.

“I feel like I’m due some type of compensation because of all the suffering that I have gone through. My family members say, ‘You have cancer but we feel like we have it too. We watch you when you’re sick and we remember when you were so healthy.’ Even if I don’t live long enough to get anything, maybe this could ease some of the sorrow they’ve experienced because of what has happened to me. 

“J&J knew that the asbestos was in the baby powder and they continued to sell it. They just didn’t care. There are all these people out there suffering because of what [J&J] did. They need to do the right thing and compensate us.”