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September 23, 2021

Johnson & Johnson to Face Powder Asbestos Claims in California

A California appellate court found that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) must face claims arising from allegations that its baby powder exposed a man to asbestos and ultimately caused him cancer. Plaintiff Douglas Strobel said he used J&J’s baby powder his entire life, was diagnosed with cancer in 2019, and later sued the company for liability, negligence and fraud, claiming that his illness was directly linked to product use. He died in 2020, and his family has taken over the case.

A trial court granted summary judgment for J&J, finding that the Strobels had not presented evidence of the presence of asbestos in  the baby powder during the years Strobel used it. Without this evidence, the court concluded that “no reasonable jury could conclude Strobel’s use of the powder exposed him to asbestos.” However, the California Court of Appeals, First District, disagreed. The court concluded that the record shows long-term use of the product, that J&J did not present any evidence of how asbestos would have been eliminated in the process of milling talc, and that those circumstances were enough to support the possibility that the powder was a significant factor in Strobel’s cancer development.