- Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $18 million to a man who said he got cancer from baby powder.
- The man, 24, probably won’t be able to see the money anytime soon, due to a bankruptcy court order.
- And Anthony Hernandez Valadez’s health is failing, and he is not expected to last the summer.
A 24-year-old California man was awarded $18.8 million Tuesday in his lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, in which he blamed talc in the company’s baby powder for giving him cancer.
But Anthony “Emory” Hernandez Valadez, who has mesothelioma, is unlikely to see the money anytime soon because of a bankruptcy court order that has frozen legal proceedings for claims over Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products.
And Valadez’s health is rapidly failing — the only reason Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan allowed his case to proceed as an exception.
Validity Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder allegedly contained asbestos in the talc, and said his mother used the product on him many times when he was a child. His condition, mesothelioma, is a rare and aggressive cancer of the tissue surrounding the body’s major organs, and is often associated with exposure to asbestos.
“This will take his life,” his attorney, Joe Satterley, a jury said in June. Satterley said at the time that Valadez’s doctors did not expect the 24-year-old to be alive in December 2022, and now think he will not survive the summer.
Valadez accused Johnson & Johnson of hiding the health risks of the baby powder, and said his mother would have avoided using the product if she had known about these risks. A California jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Valadez $18.8 million in compensation for medical bills, and pain related to his cancer.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict, saying “erroneous controls” prevented it from sharing “critical facts” that showed Valadez’s cancer was unrelated to her baby powder.
“Without that evidence, the verdict is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations that confirm Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the company’s vice president of litigation, Erik Haas, said in a statement.
Valadez joins thousands of plaintiffs who allege that the talc in Johnson & Johnson products sometimes contained asbestos and may have caused cancer.
But these cases are pending after LTL Management, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, filed for bankruptcy in April. Through the bankruptcy, the firm proposed to settle with more than 38,000 plaintiffs and distribute $8.9 billion among them.
Filed in New Jersey, the order also prevents further litigation and a tidal wave of new cases against the company.
The six-week trial for the Valdez case was the exception, and is the first in two years involving these allegations against Johnson & Johnson.
In its statement, Haas Johnson & Johnson said the jury award to Valadez would not be paid until the bankruptcy proceedings are concluded.
“We remain focused on all claimants having the opportunity to vote and decide for themselves on our plan to compensate them in a timely and efficient manner,” he said.
There are some complainers seek to dismiss LTL Management’s bankruptcy filing, saying it allowed Johnson & Johnson to put a hard cap on payouts if it lost the lawsuits.
Johnson & Johnson stop selling talc-based baby powder in 2020, offering a cornstarch based version instead.
Lawyers for Valadez and Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent outside normal business hours.