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Local family files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson after mom dies from Mesothelioma

Tara DeAugustinis died of Mesothelioma in May 2017. Her family alleges her death was caused by asbestos in the baby powder she used growing up.

A local family is suing Johnson & Johnson after they say a wife and mother died of complications from a disease they say was caused by the company.

Johnson & Johnson stock plummeted this week after new court documents showed they may have known their baby powder was tainted for years.

Victims were awarded huge settlements after juries heard evidence the company knew there was asbestos in their baby powder.

Tara DeAugustinis passed away in 2017 after a 15-month fight with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

"Our belief is that she was exposed in the home, as a child. Long term, repeated exposure to asbestos tainted baby powder," said Tara's husband, Rich DeAugustinis. 

Their family is suing Johnson and Johnson, alleging they knew the powder was tainted and did nothing to stop it.

"It was very simple to me. My wife had her life taken away from her. She had no choice in the matter," he said.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson stock price tumbles after report of asbestos in baby powder

Credit: Rich DeAugustinis
Tara DeAugustinis

In a strong rebuttal, Johnson & Johnson says there is no link between their baby powder and cancer.

They say they never hid anything, and their products always have been and always will be safe.

"Johnson's only uses pure, pharmaceutical-grade talc. We test every lot to ensure it. We're a company deeply committed to the good health and long life of every person on earth," the company writes. 

Talcum powder is the refined form of the mineral talc.

They list these three points on their website:

  1. J&J’s baby powder is safe and does not cause cancer. Studies of tens of thousands of women and thousands of men show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease.
  2. For decades, J&J’s baby powder has repeatedly been tested for asbestos and been found not to contain asbestos.
  3. J&J has cooperated fully and openly with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and other global regulators, providing them with all the information they requested over decades. We have also made our cosmetic talc sources and processed talc available to regulators for testing. Regulators have tested both and found no asbestos. To say we hid anything is false.

Rich says Tara's death proves differently.

"I'm trying to give voice to this cause. My wife can't because her breath was taken away," he said. 

Hours before she went in for a risky operation, Tara DeAugustinis wrote a letter to her surgeons.

"I want to make sure you understand what your to-dos are today. #1: get all of this cancer, this mesothelioma out of my body. It is not welcome here. #2. Don't let me die."

"She was a very strong woman. She loved fiercely," her husband said. 

While Rich fights to avenge his wife's death in the court, he remembers her life in her spirit, and her words, and her letter.

"I am a fighter and have always been a can do person. And I want you to have that attitude as you go in to this surgery. I trust you and I will see you when I wake up," she wrote. 

She did survive that surgery and went on to fight for months before the cancer took her.

Rich said he's suing so the people he thinks are responsible for her death are held accountable. 

"I don't want to see other people going through that agony. It's unacceptable in society that this man caused cancer is still afflicting people," Rich said.

He now serves on the board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and lobbies on Capitol Hill to bring awareness to the disease. They are pushing to create a national patient registry to collect scientific data. 

Click here to read about Tara's journey. Johnson & Johnson's statement about talc can also be found on the company's website.