How Much Is Your Talc-Asbestos Case Worth?

Putting a dollar value on a lawsuit over asbestos in talc products starts with understanding how "damages" work.

The potential presence of asbestos in products like baby powder has led to the filing of thousands of lawsuits. In many of these cases, plaintiffs allege a link between talc products and the development of ovarian cancer or other health problems, and accuse manufacturers of hiding known health risks from consumers.

If you've decided to file a lawsuit over health problems caused by baby powder or some other talc product, you're probably wondering about the value of your case. How do you put a dollar figure on harm resulting from potentially dangerous products like these? What specific losses will be covered in a settlement or court award over cancer or some other health problem tied to talc products?

"Damages" in a Talc-Asbestos Case

As with any injury-related case, figuring out the value of a claim over the safety of a talc product starts with an understanding of the nature and extent of the injured person's "damages," which is a legal term that refers to compensation for losses suffered by that person (the plaintiff). Damages are paid by the defendant in the lawsuit. (In these talc-related cases, the defendant is usually a manufacturer like Johnson & Johnson.) Whether your talcum powder case settles out of court or you receive a judgment in your favor after a trial, the money you receive is considered damages. (Learn more about damages in a personal injury case.)

Let's look at some common categories of damages, and how each might affect the value of your talc-asbestos lawsuit.

Cost of Past and Future Medical Care

As a plaintiff, if you win or settle your case, your damages include compensation for:

  • any medical treatment you've received as a result of your cancer diagnosis or other health issues linked to your use of an asbestos-containing talc product, and
  • any care you'll need in the future.

Note that if the full extent and impact of your medical complications isn't clear, it's probably not in your best interest to accept an injury settlement offer. Your attorney will almost certainly want to wait until both of you have a clear picture of this component of your damages. Once you accept an injury settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn that your health problems are worse than you first thought.

Lost Income and Diminished Earning Capacity

If your cancer diagnosis or other health issues have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages in a claim over a talc product. Specifically, you are entitled to compensation for any income you've already lost—and for income you would have earned in the future but now won't—due to your health issues. In "legalese," an award based on future income is characterized as compensation for the injured person's "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity."

"Pain and Suffering"

While economic losses like medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate, "pain and suffering" isn't so easy to quantify. But this category of damages plays a big part in determining how much you can expect to receive in an injury case, and can be a crucial component of a talcum powder lawsuit. Pain and suffering is often broken down into two types:

  • Physical pain and suffering includes the discomfort resulting from your asbestos-related health problems, including any pain caused by the course of care necessary to properly diagnose and treat your condition.
  • Mental pain and suffering can be viewed as the subjective psychological impact of your health problems. This includes anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, fear, anger, humiliation, anxiety, shock, sleeplessness, and other negative effects.

(Learn more about pain and suffering in a personal injury case.)

The "Duty to Mitigate" Damages in a Talc-Asbestos Case

When you file a lawsuit over harm caused by the potential presence of talc in personal hygiene products, you're asking the defendant to compensate you for your damages, but you're also taking on the legal obligation to keep those damages to a reasonable minimum.

The law in most states expects injury claimants to minimize or "mitigate" the financial impact of the harm caused by the defendant's alleged wrongdoing. For example, if Johnson & Johnson (or another defendant) can successfully argue that you failed to get necessary medical treatment when you first began experiencing health problems, and that the delay caused your condition to further deteriorate, your damages award might be significantly reduced. This is one of many reasons why it's important to have an experienced lawyer on your side.