Lanier Longstaff Hedar and Roberts brings first UK group action over talcum powder
The firm's founder secured a $4.7bn ruling against Johnson & Johnson in the US
A leading US lawyer who won a landmark $4.7bn ruling against Johnson & Johnson in the US over claims its talcum powder caused cancer has launched a group action to compensate victims in the UK.
Mark Lanier is one of the founding partners of Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP, set up to target corporate wrongdoing that has harmed people on a large scale.
With an estimated 41,000 people with ovarian cancer in the UK and a further 2,700 diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, the lawyers believe there may be thousands of victims who can trace their asbestos exposure back to using talc from a variety of manufacturers.
Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts argue the pharmaceutical giants have known for decades about the presence of asbestos in the talcum powder sold to the mass-consumer market and has failed to act in the interests of consumers.
Through the continued sale and marketing of these products, they claim thousands of people in the UK could have been needlessly exposed to harmful fibres of asbestos, which may have caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma – an incurable cancer caused by asbestos exposure – at some point in their life. The claims include allegations that talc manufacturers breached the duty of care to consumers.
Lanier previously won $4.7bn for 22 women in the US and their families who alleged using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other talc products caused the women to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. The primary ingredient, mineral talc, has been found to contain asbestos, the trial jury heard.
Talc manufacturers have removed most products from the market; Johnson & Johnson withdrew its talc-based products in the US and Canada in 2020 and will cease sales in the UK next year, with the company switching to a cornstarch-based formula – a decision it has described as ‘commercial’.
Mark Lanier asserts: “For over forty years major manufacturers of talc products have covered up evidence of asbestos in its products. With pressure mounting, these companies are finally ceasing production, but this is long overdue.
“Companies have made many millions from the sales of its talc, and we believe there are many more victims, including in the UK, who deserve justice for having their lives cut short by these terrible and incurable cancers, which could so easily have been avoided.”
Lanier and chief operating officer Kevin Roberts recently launched a UK law firm with barristers, Tom Longstaff and Duncan Hedar.
Longstaff said: “We will show that the use of talcum powder materially increased a person’s risk of developing cancer, and we already have access to a number of important sources of information that demonstrate how talcum powder manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and other companies contained, asbestos and that the company had known of that fact for decades.
“This litigation will demonstrate that manufacturers essentially prioritised profit over the health of the users of its products, and we seek justice for the injured victims in the UK.”
Hedar added: “Given the evidence, it is shocking that anyone continues to sell a product known to cause such serious harm and continues to deny all wrongdoing.
“We urge anyone suffering from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, and who believes that talc products caused their illness, to make contact so that we can make sure appropriate companies are held accountable. Sadly, for some it may be too late but, if a person has died, it is still possible for loved ones who want answers to bring a claim on their behalf.”
Given the nature of the claim, the firm has said it is hard to predict an exact amount of damages claimants may receive. Compensation will depend on various factors, such as any losses they or their loved ones have suffered and the severity of the diagnosis.