After being inundated with tens of thousands of consumer-level lawsuits alleging chronic health complications from using its talcum powder, consumer products conglomerate Johnson & Johnson now faces a new lawsuit from a California county. According to Law360, Los Angeles County is filing claims including false advertising, unfair competition, and public nuisance against J&J for the damage that the company has allegedly caused in distributing talcum products that led to LA county residents’ health complications.
According to the complaint, Los Angeles County alleges that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. The lawsuit marks an evolution in talcum powder litigation. Prior to this lawsuit, state and municipal governments have abstained from filing cases. Now, LA County may be the first of a new wave of complaints filed by municipalities. Of note is the fact that the county filed suit against J&J directly as opposed to routing their talc complaint through LTL Management, the company specifically created through a divisive merger to handle J&J’s talc liabilities.
As part of the complaint, Johnson & Johnson is accused of knowing for decades that talc is actually toxic to humans. Despite allegedly knowing this, the LA County attorneys claim that J&J chose to market its talc products to LA County residents, and the products caused cancers and other health complications.
LA County representatives argue that J&J’s “marketing, promotion and sale of the products have created widespread public health impacts including increased risks of cancer, severe illness, cancer and death in Los Angeles County and California." The County also believes that Johnson & Johnson has continued to spread “false and misleading representations” about the safety of their talcum powder products, which are still allegedly available for purchase in California.
As an addendum to their complaint, the County makes a related claim. Not only did J&J allegedly market dangerous talc products to LA County residents, but the company also went out of its way to specifically target Hispanic and African American women in its advertising efforts. This is relevant to the wave of consumer lawsuits, which currently numbers approximately 50,000 claims. The county states, "With the nation's largest Hispanic population, California, including Los Angeles County, was an important strategic market for defendants' products."
LA County is seeking unspecified damages for their allegations. Johnson & Johnson continues to maintain that its talc products have always been safe, despite removing their talcum powder from U.S. shelves.
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