A division of the New York Supreme Court reversed a 2019 decision that awarded a woman $120 million in damages for her cancer that she claimed was caused by long-term exposure to Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products. 

Talc is a mineral that is naturally formed in veins that grow near asbestos. When talc is mined, cross-contamination with asbestos may occur. In tens of thousands of ovarian cancer talc claims against J&J, plaintiffs have claimed that J&J had known for decades that the talc it was supplied with could have been contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos. 

The plaintiff, Donna Olson, was originally awarded $325 million, a figure that was later reduced to $120 million. Olson’s case was one of the highest-profile talc-mesothelioma cases against Johnson & Johnson. With the July 19 reversal, Johnson & Johnson is now completely off the hook for liability in Olson’s case, Law.com reported.

The court ruled that Olson’s legal team did not present expert testimony that established sufficient evidence that Olson’s exposure to talcum in J&J’s products caused her health to deteriorate. 

Olson’s 2019 trial lasted four months and ended with a jury decision in 2020 that ordered J&J to pay her $300 million in punitive damages and $20 million for past and future pain and suffering. Olson’s husband was also awarded $5 million. Olson’s reward was reduced to $120 million in November 2020, but the trial court affirmed J&J’s liability in the case. 

Olson originally filed suit against J&J in 2017, claiming that her lifelong use of J&J’s talc-based products caused her to develop mesothelioma. 

According to JDSupra.com, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish the amount of asbestos to which she was allegedly exposed each time that she used J&J talcum powder products. Olson’s expert witnesses failed to “set forth a scientific expression of the minimum lifetime exposure to asbestos that would have been sufficient to cause mesothelioma,” the court ruled.