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Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update

The latest lawsuit trial news and updates for Talcum Powder Lawsuit Trials.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Recall News: After Baby Powder Recall, J&J Faces New Talc-Cancer Cases in Calif., Missouri

December 8, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Following the bombshell disclosure by the United States’ chief pharmaceutical watchdog that a lab it hired had detected asbestos fibers in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder, state-court litigation over talc-cancer claims continues to push forward, with two trials underway in California and one set to begin in Missouri.

The present trials will be the first to reach the verdict phase after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed October 18 that a third-party lab it had hired to test Johnson’s Baby Powder had detected a form of asbestos in a single 22-ounce bottle.

Multibillion-dollar consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson subsequently announced the recall of 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder “[o]ut of an abundance of caution.”

Now, the new state-court lawsuits will be the first to test the impact of the FDA’s revelations, and J&J’s subsequent voluntary recall, on jurors’ determination as to whether Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos fibers that can cause mesothelioma when inhaled, as thousands of plaintiffs allege.

In California, one such talc-mesothelioma trial is just getting started while another is nearing closing statements.

In Northern California, attorneys delivered opening remarks Monday, December 2 in the third J&J talc-asbestos trial to take place in Alameda County state court at Oakland, California. Plaintiff Linda O’Hagan says that she developed pleural mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the lungs, after decades of regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. Her trial is projected to last into early 2020.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, another talc-mesothelioma trial is expected to begin closing arguments sometime the week of December 9, according to the Courtroom View Network (CVN).

At the same time, jury selection has begun in the Missouri state-court case of plaintiff Vickie Forrest, who claims that years of use of Johnson’s Baby Powder on her genital area caused her to develop ovarian cancer. While J&J has faced numerous claims based on allegations both that its talcum-powder products cause mesothelioma and that they can cause ovarian cancer, most recent lawsuits have focused on mesothelioma.

However, Missouri and St. Louis in particular have a history of delivering landmark verdicts on claims that J&J talc can cause ovarian cancer, having returned by far the largest plaintiff award on talc-cancer claims to date when in July 2018 a St. Louis-based jury ordered J&J and its talc supplier to pay a staggering $4.69 billion in damages to 22 plaintiff groups on allegations that J&J talc had caused ovarian cancer.

While some plaintiffs continue to fight J&J in state court, more than 15,000 federal talc-cancer lawsuits have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. J&J’s apparent legal strategy has been to have as many state-court talc-cancer claims removed to federal court as possible, though certain plaintiffs have succeeded in having their cases remanded back to state court, as evidenced by the ongoing state-court trials.

Sources:

Siegel, D. (4 December 2019). Johnson & Johnson Faces Latest Talc Trials In Missouri and California. Courtroom View Network (CVN)

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (18 October 2019). Baby powder manufacturer voluntarily recalls products for asbestos. FDA News Release. Press Announcements

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI). (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Company Announcements. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Patrick, R. and Currier, J. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Talcum Powder FDA News: FDA Deferred To Industry, Ignored Outside Experts Over Talc-Asbestos Concerns For Decades: Reuters

December 4, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

The United States’ purported chief health watchdog for decades deferred to industry and excluded outside experts when it came to investigating concerns over the presence of asbestos in the talc used in popular consumer products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, an explosive new investigative report by Reuters has revealed.

According to the report, published December 3, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed in its charge to protect the public by ignoring evidence produced by outside experts and instead allowing the industry to engage in what appears in retrospect to be a troubling level of self-regulation.

“Over the past 50 years, the FDA has relied upon—and often deferred to—industry even as outside experts and consumers repeatedly raised health concerns about talc powders and cosmetics,” Reuters reported. “Again and again since at least the 1970s, the agency has downplayed the risk of asbestos contamination and declined to issue warnings or impose safety standards, according to documents produced in court proceedings and in response to public record requests.”

When questioned about its ineffectiveness in keeping contaminated products off the market, the FDA essentially argued that it was powerless to act and instead is purely reliant on the good will and competence of private companies to sell safe products to consumers.

“We are dependent on manufacturers to take steps to ensure the safety of their products,” the FDA said in March following the voluntary recall of talc-based cosmetics that had been found to be contaminated with asbestos.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen extremely closely correlated with pleural mesothelioma, a particularly painful and deadly form of cancer that afflicts the lining of the lungs.

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powders

For decades, consumer-goods mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has adamantly denied allegations that its flagship product Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos, continuing to market the powder to the public as “pure”. However, as company documents obtained through prior litigation have shown, Johnson & Johnson’s own scientists had expressed concerns over asbestos contamination internally dating back decades.

Now, thousands of lawsuits have been filed in the United States alleging that years of regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder caused the plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. Federal talc-cancer claims have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. The MDL presently contains more than 15,000 cases.

Despite mounting evidence of the presence of asbestos in J&J talc, the company continues to back its talcum-powder products, both publicly and under oath.

“Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the FDA and other regulatory bodies defended talc,” J&J’s Chief Executive Alex Gorsky testified during a sworn deposition given October 3, per Reuters. “FDA agreed overall with the position that we had taken with the safety of our talc.”

FDA Defers To Industry

While J&J for years has used the FDA’s supposed backing to argue for the safety of its talc-based products, the Reuters investigation has revealed that, during that same period, the FDA essentially was relying on J&J’s and the industry’s own assertions about the presence of asbestos.

In this circular example of regulatory capture, J&J’s own experts convinced the FDA that J&J talc-based products did not contain asbestos, an assertion which the FDA accepted for years without conducting its own independent analysis, or even allowing outside experts to present their work for consideration. Then, in a particularly cynical move, J&J would cite the FDA’s tacit approval as evidence of its talcum powder’s safety.

A recent, literal example of this exclusion of outside experts is described in the Reuters report.

“At an invitation-only gathering late last year, U.S. regulators and their guests huddled at a hotel near Washington, D.C., to discuss the best way to detect cancer-causing asbestos in talc powders and cosmetics,” Reuters reports. “The ‘Asbestos in Talc Symposium,’ sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration, was dominated by industry hands: Most of the 21 non-government participants had done work for talc companies, such as testing and serving as expert witnesses and consultants.”

While “[k]ey sessions” at the Asbestos In Talc Symposium “were led by witnesses for Johnson & Johnson in lawsuits alleging the company failed to warn customers that its Baby Powder was tainted with cancer-causing asbestos…[o]thers who sought invitations were turned away, including a physician who had testified against J&J in trials that resulted in billions of dollars in damages against the company.”

This inclusion of industry insiders to the exclusion of outside experts with views contrary to those pushed by the talc-manufacturers themselves reflected decades of standard practice when it comes to the FDA’s supposed oversight of asbestos in talc.

The FDA Finally Commissions Its Own Tests

And what ultimately happened when the FDA, succumbing to pressure from Congress and amid a criminal investigation into J&J’s practices pertaining to asbestos in its talc, actually commissioned its own tests after roughly 40 years of not doing so?

Testing a single 22-ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder, researchers hired by the FDA discovered asbestos fibers, prompting Johnson & Johnsons to recall 33,000 bottles. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers of a voluntary recall by Johnson & Johnson of Johnson’s Baby Powder after FDA testing has found that a sample from one lot of the product contains chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos,” the FDA’s statement, released October 18, says.

“During talc mining, if talc mining sites are not selected carefully and steps are not taken to purify the talc ore sufficiently, the talc may be contaminated with asbestos,” the FDA statement explains. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen.”

In its own annoucement, J&J said it was initiating the voluntary recall “out of an abundance of caution” and highlighted that the FDA’s test had detected “sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination.”

J&J further emphasized that it could not “confirm if cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive” and later released its own test results, which the company says only found asbestos in one of the tested samples, and that was supposedly found to be a false positive caused by an air-conditioning unit.

It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

While certain evens have a tendency to look inevitable in retrospect, the Reuters’ investigation identifies a number of key moments where things could have proceeded differently with the regards to the FDA’s approach to regulating talc.

The potential for asbestos to be present in talc first came onto the FDA’s radar in 1971. According to Reuters, that’s when researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center identified asbestos in “unnamed brands” of talc powder. In 1973, the FDA, engaging in its own testing, found asbestos in J&J’s Shower to Shower brand talc powder, but never released these findings to the public.

Concerned about the potential revelations of independent testing, Johnson & Johnson and other talc purveyors pushed, through their trade group the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, for industry self-regulation.

Under pressure, the “FDA dropped plans to impose testing and purity standards for talc powders and cosmetics,” according to Reuters. “The trade group published its own test, which was voluntary for companies to use.”

Further, the “written standard for that test acknowledges that it cannot detect most types of asbestos at low levels, nor one common type—chrysotile—at all.”

The form of asbestos identified in the 22-ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder that prompted the October 2019 recall was, in fact, chrysotile. According to Reuters, “[Chrysotile] also was found in several tests conducted by labs for J&J on its talc from 1972 through 2003.”

Another Chance To Get It Right

Researchers and industry missed another opportunity to avert or at least mitigate today’s talc-asbestos tragedy in the early 1980s, when an enterprising graduate student named Philippe Douillet discovered information in a geology journal suggesting that talc deposits often contain asbestos deposits. Douillet made the connection between this information and the potential hazards it posed for consumers using talc-based powders.

Douillet petitioned the FDA, trying to get the purported consumer watchdog to place an asbestos warning label on talc-based products.

“It was really obvious to me there was a big issue there,” Douillet told Reuters.

However, in considering the warning-label petition, the FDA turned not to its own experts or to independent researchers, but to Johnson & Johnson itself.

“The FDA’s June 1985 risk assessment [in response to Douillet’s petition] relied upon a decade-old letter from [J&J] for the agency’s estimate of the amount of dust babies were exposed to during diapering,” Reuters reported. “That 1974 letter from J&J to the FDA said that, hypothetically, even if babies were exposed to talc powder with as much as 1% asbestos, it would be a far lower concentration than allowed at the time for industrial workers.”

Yet Another Opportunity, But ‘Other Priorities’

In 1994, the FDA again received a petition concerning cancer and talcum powders. Dr. Samuel Epstein, chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, requested that the FDA require a warning label on talcum powders highlighting the risk of ovarian cancer.

“In a brief July 1995 letter, FDA acting cosmetics chief John Bailey told Epstein’s coalition that the agency had taken no action because it had other priorities,” Reuters reported.

Following his “public service” at the FDA, Bailey then followed the money into the very industry he had taken a light hand in regulating.

“In 2002, having taken no action on the petition, Bailey moved to the cosmetic trade group, now known as Personal Care Products Council,” Reuters reported. “Now a consultant, Bailey serves as a litigation expert witness to J&J and other talc companies.”

The Fallout

It will never be known exactly how many premature deaths or how much needless suffering could have been prevented if either Johnson & Johnson or the FDA had acted more proactively when faced with evidence, starting at least half a century ago, that the very talc products J&J was marketing for use on babies contained the dangerous carcinogen asbestos.

But what has become clear through hard-fought litigation on behalf of plaintiffs and hard-hitting journalism by investigative reporters is that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the potential for asbestos fibers to be present in its talcum-powder products and, rather than act to protect its customers, it chose to actively conceal what it knew and sought to use its clout to prevent regulators from learning the same through independent testing.

Now Johnson & Johnson must face the consequences in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

Sources:

Girion, L. and Terhune, C. (3 December 2019). Powder Keg: FDA bowed to industry for decades as alarms were sounded over talc. Reuters

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (18 October 2019). Baby powder manufacturer voluntarily recalls products for asbestos. FDA News Release. Press Announcements

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Company Announcement. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: JPML Transfers 23 More Cases to J&J Talc MDL

November 26, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In the aftermath of US regulators announcing the discovery of asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder, new cases continue to join multidistrict litigation (MDL) over talc-cancer claims at a feverish pace, with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordering the conditional transfer of nearly two dozen additional cases on November 21, according to court documents reviewed by TheLawFirm.com.

“On October 4, 2016, the Panel transferred 10 civil action(s) to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey for coordinated pretrial proceedings,” the JPML’s Conditional Transfer Order states. “Since that time 1,676 additional action(s) have been transferred to the District of New Jersey.”

To date, the Johnson & Johnson talc-cancer MDL includes roughly 15,000 total cases.

For several years, plaintiffs have been suing multi-billion-dollar mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company’s talcum-powder products contain the hazardous material asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Despite mixed results for plaintiffs suing on talc-cancer claims to date, mounting evidence—much of it obtained through those early cases’ discovery process—indicates not only that the J&J’s talc products contain asbestos but that the company itself took measures to conceal that fact from consumers and regulators dating back decades.

The cases transferred to the MDL pursuant to the JPML’s November 21 order include 12 cases from California’s Central District, four cases from New York’s Southern District, four cases from New York’s Western District, two cases from New York’s Eastern District, and one case from Georgia’s Southern District.

The November 21 conditional transfer order follows a similar order dated November 15, which also transferred 23 cases to the fast-growing talc-cancer MDL, located in the District of New Jersey. That transfer included 21 cases from the District of Columbia and two cases from New York’s Western District.

While the New Jersey-based MDL has centralized the pretrial proceedings for thousands of federal talc-cancer lawsuits, scores of other plaintiffs have pursued their claims against J&J in state court. Though plaintiffs have obtained mixed results in bringing state talc-cancer claims, there have been some notable victories, including one multi-billion-dollar jury verdict in Missouri state court. J&J has appealed all of its talc-cancer losses.

However, with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) having announced the discovery of asbestos fibers in a single bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder, resulting in the voluntary recall of roughly 33,000 bottles, the legal and public-relations landscape may now have shifted for J&J, which for years has maintained adamantly in court and in public that its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos.

Sources:

United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). (21 November 2019). Conditional Transfer Order (CTO – 182). MDL No. 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation

United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). (15 November 2019). Conditional Transfer Order (CTO – 181). MDL No. 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: Hawaiian Women Sues J&J On Talc-Cancer Claims, Atty. Points To FDA Test Results

November 25, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Showing that legal action against Johnson & Johnson knows no bounds, a Hawaiian woman has joined the thousands of other plaintiffs suing the multi-billion-conglomerate over allegations that its talcum-powder products contain the dangerous carcinogen asbestos.

“From approximately 1963 to 2018, Plaintiff JACQUELINE BECKER regularly and frequently used and was exposed to asbestos-containing Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products both in Australia from 1963 to 1991 and in the State of Hawaii from 1991 to 2018, the use of which generated dust and exposed her to respirable asbestos fibers,” alleges the complaint, filed November 21 in Hawaii’s first circuit.

Becker was diagnosed with the rare and highly fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma earlier this year. Mesothelioma afflicting the lining of the lungs, known as pleural mesothelioma, is extremely closely correlated with asbestos exposure.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the plaintiff Becker against defendants J&J and Foodland Supermarkets, also may be an indication that test results from a lab working for the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which identified asbestos fibers in a sample of Johnson’s Baby Powder, may be having an impact on talc-cancer litigation.

“So Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall of just that lot, which was about 30,000 bottles,” attorney Ilana Waxman, representing the plaintiff Becker, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, referring to a voluntary recall issued by J&J in response to the FDA’s asbestos discovery. “But even in the face of the FDA’s tests, they’ve [Johnson & Johnson] continued to deny that there really is asbestos in the baby powder.”

More than 14,000 federal talc-cancer lawsuits have been centralized as multi-district litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. In addition, plaintiffs like Jacqueline Becker have filed scores of state lawsuits claiming that they developed mesothelioma or ovarian cancer as a result of years of regular exposure to J&J’s talcum-powder products.

To date, plaintiffs have achieved mixed results on talc-cancer claims, with some juries finding in favor of the defendant J&J and others awarding plaintiffs damages running into the nine and even ten figures.

However, with a lab working for the FDA now having identified asbestos fibers in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder, and with J&J having issued a voluntary recall as a result, the company will have a more difficult time maintaining its adamant denials about the presence of asbestos in its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder.

For years, J&J has marketed the supposed purity of Johnson’s Baby Powder, despite internal documents revealed through litigation showing that the company’s scientists and executives harbored concerns about the presence of asbestos in J&J talcum powders going back decades.

“That asbestos is a natural contaminant of talc is well known, going back to the 1930s,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Waxman, told the Tribune-Herald. “So by the 1970s, companies like Johnson & Johnson and the FDA were starting to look at this issue, the possibility of asbestos being in baby powder and other talcum powder. And essentially, the industry at that time was successful at convincing the FDA to let them self-regulate. There were test results that show asbestos in baby powder that go back to the [19]70s and before, but the companies like Johnson & Johnson were successful in saying, ‘Oh, those were aberrations. The tests were wrong.’ And essentially burying the issue until now.”

Becker’s lawsuit also names the grocery store chain where she says she bought the majority of her Johnson’s talcum powder.

“[A]s a retailer, they have liability under the product liability law for selling unsafe products, and that was one of Jackie’s main sources of purchasing baby powder once she was in Hawaii,” Waxman explained.

With more and more evidence linking Johnson’s Baby Powder with asbestos, new lawsuits such as Ms. Becker’s are unlikely to stop any time soon.

Sources:

Burnett, J. (21 November 2019). Big Island woman sues Johnson & Johnson over mesothelioma diagnosis. Hawaii Tribune-Herald

State of Hawai’i Circuit Court for the First Circuit. (21 November 2019). Complaint; Exhibit “A”; Summons. Jacqueline Becker, Plaintiff, vs. Johnson & Johnson, et al. In Re: Hawai’i State Absestos Cases

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: FDA Asbestos Finding, J&J Baby Powder Recall Already Impacting Talc-Cancer MDL

November 15, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Lawyers representing plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation (MDL) over allegations that Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos fibers that cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer have wasted little time seeking to incorporate the recent discovery by the US’ chief health agency of sub-trace amounts of asbestos fibers in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder into the fast-growing and quickly evolving litigation.

The moves follow the October 18 annoucement that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had identified “chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos” in a sample of Johnson’s Baby Powder.

On the same day, Johnson & Johnson annoucement the “voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder.” The recall affected approximately 33,000 bottles in the 22-ounce size.

Plaintiffs’ October 18 Letter

Also on October 18, the plaintiffs steering committee [PSC] for the talc-cancer MDL wrote a letter to the presiding judge, US District Judge Freda Wolfson, informing the court of the PSC’s efforts to obtain additional information as quickly as possible and requesting permission to revise pretrial discovery in light of the new evidence.

“The PSC writes to bring this development to the Court’s attention and to inform the Court of its efforts to obtain additional information,” the PSC’s letter states, referring to the FDA’s asbestos finding and the subsequent recall. “The PSC has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain documents regarding the third-party lab that performed the testing, the test results, the testing procedures, and any communications regarding the lot that tested positive. The PSC has also requested that Johnson & Johnson Defendants, as part of their ongoing duty to supplement pending discovery requests, provide within seven days documents, data and information regarding the same.”

“The PSC is making every effort to obtain this information on an expedited basis,” the letter continues. “Following receipt of the requested documents and data, the PSC requests the opportunity to supplement its briefing and provide the relevant evidence to the Court for consideration when addressing the pending Daubert motions.”

Daubert motions pertain to the selection of expert witnesses and the scope of their testimony for trial.

J&J’s October 22 Letter

On October 22, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson responded with a letter of their own, acknowledging that “J&J and JJCI [Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.] are investigating this matter as quickly as possible to ensure that they take the right next steps on this issue” but pushing back on the plaintiffs’ request to revisit discovery.

“Defendants strongly object…to any suggestion that this development merits reopening the Court’s Daubert inquiry,” the letter says, with J&J vowing to determine “the validity of the tested sample and the validity of the test results, including whether they were the result of cross-contamination.” The attorneys for J&J proceed to argue as to why the “FDA’s finding is not relevant to the Court’s Daubert inquiry.” First, they say somewhat opaquely, the fact of the FDA’s discovering asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder does not impact the question before the court, which is one of causation, the analysis of which supposedly “does not turn on the product contents.”

In any event, they contend, the levels of asbestos detected by plaintiffs’ expert “would result in exposure far below the OSHA PEL and even further below the direct, prolonged and heavy occupational exposure that has been associated with ovarian cancer in the epidemiological literature.”

In other words, J&J’s lawyers are arguing that, even if the FDA and the plaintiffs’ expert did accurately identify asbestos fibers in J&J’s talcum powder, that fact is irrelevant because the levels are supposedly too low to impact the legal analysis of causation.

Second, attorneys for J&J argue in their letter to the court that the FDA’s findings should be disregarded because they relate only to a single bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder.

“There is no suggestion by the FDA that the product has been contaminated for the decades at issue in this litigation,” J&J’s letter states. “To the contrary, the FDA has previously conducted testing and not detected asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder. Indeed, the FDA recently reported on testing that did not detect asbestos in baby powder products.” [Emphasis in original.]

Finally, J&J argues that the FDA did not detect the right kind of asbestos to make the information relevant to the pending talc-cancer litigation. According to J&J’s lawyers, “chrysotile, a form of serpentine asbestos” discovered by researchers working with the FDA “has not been associated with the Chinese mine that has been the source of JJCI talcum powder products since 2003.” Further, plaintiffs’ expert Dr. William Longo says he detected amphibole asbestos, “which the FDA did not find in the lot at issue.”

“Thus, the FDA findings undermine Dr. Longo’s opinions, rather than supporting them,” J&J’s letter asserts, a contention which would seem to contradict J&J’s position that the FDA’s discovery is irrelevant to the issues at hand, if only because, if true, it would seem to bolster J&J’s argument.

Plaintiffs’ October 23 Letter

On October 23, the plaintiffs steering committee responded with another letter, written “to address several inaccurate statements by Johnson & Johnson Defendants…in their October 22, 2019 letter regarding the recall of Johnson’s Baby Powder that tested positive for asbestos.”

First, plaintiffs take aim at J&J’s assertion that the FDA’s findings are irrelevant to the issues at the heart of the litigation, saying the FDA’s discovery rebuffs decades of adamant J&J denials about the presence of asbestos in its talcum powders.

“J&J’s characterization that the amount found by the FDA is ‘trace’ is misleading,” the PSC’s October 23 letter states. “J&J’s position is, and always has been, that its talcum powder products do not contain asbestos.” Second, plaintiffs accuse J&J of misstating the FDA’s previous findings with regards to asbestos in talcum powder, quoting the FDA’s own qualifications that “…while FDA finds these results [not finding asbestos in previously tested talcum-powder samples] informative, they do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.”

Third, the plaintiffs say J&J is not in a position to argue, as it has, that the “variety of asbestos” discovered by the FDA “has not been associated with the Chinese mine that has been the source of JJCI talcum powder products since 2003.”

According to plaintiffs, “Since 2003, the talc in J&J’s talcum powder products had been mined from the Jizhua mine, which is located in the Guangxi province and owned by the Chinese government. To date, J&J has not produced any geological data regarding the Jizhua mine, such as core logs or detailed maps of the ore deposit. Any suggestion by J&J that there is a comprehensive understanding of the geology of the Chinese mine, and that chrysotile is not present in this mine, is unsupported by the evidence.”

To the contrary, plaintiffs say that “chrysotile has been previously identified in talc mined from this mine.” Finally, the plaintiffs steering committee questions J&J’s argument that somehow the FDA’s discovery of asbestos undermines the position of the plaintiffs’ expert Dr. William Longo, who also says that he has identified asbestos fibers in J&J talc.

“Moreover, J&J erroneously argues that the FDA findings ‘undermine’ Dr. Longo’s test results,” the PSC’s October 23 letter says. “This is an absurd turnabout of J&J’s prior arguments that there has ‘never’ been asbestos in talc, and, therefore, Dr. Longo’s testing methodology that found asbestos must be ‘wrong.’ The fact is the FDA confirmed the presence of asbestos in J&J’s finished talcum powder products. This confirms Dr. Longo’s findings.”

Special Master Weighs In

On November 1, Special Master Joel A. Pisano submitted his own letter to the court, approving a proposed order that supplements the previously agreed-upon terms governing how J&J is to provide to plaintiffs appropriate talc samples for testing. The order updates and clarifies these terms to reflect the circumstances surrounding the October 18 recall of one lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder. Specifically, the order deals with how J&J is to ensure that appropriate samples are retained for testing by plaintiffs in light of additional testing relating to the recall.

“The J&J defendants shall provide this Court with an inventory of Recall Samples in their possession, custody and control (‘Recall Inventory’) within ten (10) days of completing the testing portion of the Recall Investigation,” the order, approved by the Special Master November 1, states. “The Recall Inventory to be filed with this Court shall supplement the inventories of historical Talcum Powder Product samples filed with the Agreed Order.”

Pursuant to the Special Master’s order, samples contained in the recall inventory then are subject to additional requirements aimed at ensuring plaintiffs receive proper access to samples sufficient to conduct their own analyses.

The talcum-powder samples covered by the order include so-called “return samples,” or samples of product returned pursuant to the October 18 recall.

“The parties shall meet and confer to discuss whether Return Samples will be divided for testing, and if so, an appropriate protocol for the selection of such samples,” the order states. “Any disputed issues with respect to the Return Samples shall be raised with this Court.”

The Path From Here

Despite J&J’s efforts to downplay its significance, the FDA’s announcement that it had detected asbestos fibers even in a single bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder no doubt represents a landmark moment in talc-cancer litigation. However, the precise implications of the discovery remain to be seen, with much of the outcome dependent on how much and which of the evidence is deemed admissible.

While attorneys for the plaintiffs have sought to emphasize what they see as the significance and relevance of the FDA’s findings, lawyers for J&J have tried to characterize the newly revealed information as irrelevant to the relatively young but ever-growing MDL.

The outcome of this dispute will undoubtedly have a very real impact on the roughly 15,000 cases presently centralized in the MDL.

Sources:

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (18 October 2019). Baby Powder Manufacturer Voluntarily Recalls Product for Asbestos. CFSAN Constituent Update

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (22 October 2019). Letter to Honorable Freda L. Wolfson, U.S.D.J. From Susan M. Sharko. Re: In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2738)

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (22 October 2019). Letter to Honorable Freda L. Wolfson, U.S.D.J. From Susan M. Sharko. Re: In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2738)

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (23 October 2019). Letter to Honorable Freda L. Wolfson, U.S.D.J. From Michelle A. Parfitt and P. Leigh O’Dell. Re: In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2738)

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (1 November 2019). Letter to Counsel from Special Master Joel A. Pisano. Re: In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2738)

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (1 November 2019). Supplement to the s 31, 2018 Agreed Order and Stipulation Regarding the Johnson & Johnson Defendants’ Production of Talcum Powder Products and Talc Samples. MDL No. 16-2738. In Re Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: Paid Expert For J&J Runs Lab Where FDA Detected Asbestos In Talc

November 6, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Well, this could get awkward.

In an exclusive report published October 30, Reuters revealed that the same lab that, while working on behalf of the US FDA, discovered asbestos fibers in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder is, in fact, run by a man who has worked as a paid expert for Johnson & Johnson during previous talc-cancer trials.

“Andreas Saldivar, laboratory director of AMA Analytical Services Inc, has served as a litigation expert on several occasions for J&J since 2017 in its defense against plaintiffs’ claims that asbestos in talc caused their cancers,” Reuters reported.

AMA Analytical Services, Inc. conducted a laboratory analysis of a single, 22-ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder purchased online and found sub-trace amounts of asbestos fibers. The discovery prompted J&J to issue a voluntary recall of roughly 33,000 bottles of baby powder “[o]ut of an abundance of caution,” a remarkable about-face for a company that for decades has insisted publicly and in court that its talcum-powder products do not contain asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen associated with mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

The revelation that one of the very experts who previously had testified on behalf of J&J, asserting that there is no asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder, led the lab that discovered asbestos on behalf of the FDA likely will cause complications for J&J’s legal strategy going forward.

According to J&J’s most recent financial disclosures for the third quarter of 2019, as of the end of September, the company faced almost 17,000 talc-cancer lawsuits in the United States, approximately 15,000 of which are federal products liability cases centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Despite the recent recall and billions of dollars in total verdicts having been rendered against the company on talc-cancer claims, J&J also revealed in its quarterly filing that it has not set aside any funds to pay for talc-cancer verdicts beyond the anticipated costs of mounting its legal defense.

However, that legal defense is likely to have been made all the more difficult not only due to the FDA discovery of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder and the subsequent recall, but by the fact that the asbestos was discovered by one of J&J’s own experts.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Richard Ausness, a law professor at University of Kentucky who specializes in product liability cases, said of the situation involving Saldivar. “This is bad news for J&J. The plaintiffs are clearly going to say this lab director worked for J&J for years, and he found asbestos so there must be asbestos there.”

Sources:

Terhune, C. and Girion, L. (30 October 2019). Exclusive: J&J’s own expert, working for FDA, found asbestos in Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts

Johnson & Johnson. (Filed 28 October 2019). Form 10-Q for the 9 Months Ended Sep. 29, 2019. United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]. Legal Proceedings. Product Liability

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: Faced With Billions In Adverse Verdicts, Nearly 17k Lawsuits And A Recall, Still No Funds Set Aside By J&J For Talc-Cancer Claims, Filing Says

November 1, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Despite mounting evidence of a connection between the company’s talc-based products and cancer, consumer-goods mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson still has not allocated any specific funds to pay for adverse talc-cancer verdicts, according to the company’s mandatory financial disclosures for Q3 2019, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) October 28.

Meanwhile, the number of talc-related lawsuits reached approximately 16,800 as of September 29, the company disclosed.

The revelation that J&J still anticipates spending no money on adverse talc-cancer verdicts comes in spite of several juries cumulatively having found J&J liable to the tune of billions of dollars on allegations that the company’s talcum-powder products contain asbestos fibers that have caused the alleged victims to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. Of the nearly 17,000 state and federal talc-cancer lawsuits pending in the United States alone, more than 14,100 have been centralized as federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Still, according to Johnson & Johnson’s Form 10-Q for the third quarter of 2019, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) October 28, the company has not set aside any funds for talc-cancer claims beyond the anticipated costs of its legal defense, saying it expects to have the verdicts rendered against it thus far reversed.

“The Company believes that it has strong grounds on appeal to overturn these verdicts,” J&J’s legal disclosures state, referring to cases in which juries have found J&J and its talc supplier responsible for the alleged victims’ cancer. “The Company has established an accrual for defense only in connection with products liability litigation associated with body powders containing talc.”

However, based on previous verdicts and the growing number of talc-cancer claims, J&J faces potentially billions of dollars in liability over these allegations. In the largest talc-cancer verdict to date, a St. Louis-based jury in July 2018 ordered J&J and its now-bankrupt talc supplier to pay $4.69 billion to nearly two dozen talc-cancer plaintiff groups.

A failure to allocate the appropriate funds now could spell financial disaster for the company down the line, particularly with J&J being deeply embroiled in several other massive legal actions, involving products ranging from surgical mesh implants to artificial knees and hips to opioids to Risperdal, each involving potentially billions of dollars of liability.

Cumulatively, the cases have the potential to make quick work of J&J’s vaunted cash cushion, long perceived by investors and market watchers as an assurance of long-term financial stability at the more-than-100-year-old conglomerate.

Still, in its mandatory disclosures to regulators and investors, J&J expressed confidence that it ultimately will prevail on the talc-cancer legal claims without paying anyone but its own lawyers, despite the company on October 18 having announced a voluntary recall of Johnson’s Baby Powder after the FDA identified asbestos fibers in a bottle purchased online.

(J&J subsequently issued a follow-up statement October 28 saying that its own tests had failed to detect any asbestos fibers in the same bottle examined by the FDA, attributing three samples that had returned positive for asbestos to a contaminated air conditioning unit.)

Neither the recall announcement nor the subsequent statement are referenced in J&J’s October 28 filing, which covers the quarter ended September 29.

Status of the Talc-Cancer MDL

According to J&J’s quarterly filing, the federal talc-cancer MDL continues to make its way through pretrial proceedings, with the parties sparring over which expert witnesses will be permitted to testify at trial and what the scope of that testimony will be, issues of central importance to the ultimate outcome of the litigation.

“In the multi-district litigation, the parties have moved to exclude experts, known as Daubert motions,” J&J’s Form 10-Q discloses. “The Court held Daubert hearings in mid-July 2019 and a final round of briefing has been submitted to the Court. The parties are awaiting a decision.”

Although J&J’s legal disclosures do not contain any figures relating to the actual number of cases faced, the MDL recently surpassed 14,100 cases and continues to grow, according to a count of member cases conducted by the TheLawFirm.com.

State-Court Claims

In addition to the thousands of federal cases centralized in the New Jersey MDL, J&J also faces hundreds of state-court lawsuits over talc-cancer claims. While, to date, these state lawsuits have yielded mixed results at trial, state-court juries have returned some notable plaintiff victories in addition to the multi-billion-dollar St. Louis verdict.

“Lawsuits have been primarily filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey and California, as well as outside the United States,” J&J disclosed.

Sources:

Johnson & Johnson. (Filed 28 October 2019). Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended September 29, 2019. United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Notes to Financial Statements. Commitments and Contingencies [Abstract]. Legal Proceedings

Patrick, R. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message.’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Johnson & Johnson. (28 October 2019). 15 New Tests from the Same Bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder Previously Tested by FDA Find No Asbestos. Press Release

Johnson & Johnson. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall A Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Press Release

Talcum Powder Recall News: J&J Says Its Tests Show No Asbestos In Recalled Baby Powder Even Though Some Tests Returned Positive, Blames Lab A/C

November 1, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Less than two weeks after consumer-goods mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson issued the first ever voluntary recall of its signature Johnson’s Baby Powder over asbestos-contamination concerns, the company announced that researchers it had hired to look into the matter “found no asbestos” when examining the same bottle of baby powder in which government regulators say they had identified hazardous asbestos fibers, prompting the voluntary recall that covered roughly 33,000 bottles.

“Rigorous and third-party testing confirms there is no asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder,” the company is quoted as saying in its own press release. “We stand by the safety of our product.”

However, later in the same press release, J&J admits that some of the samples tested by one of the third-party labs it hired to conduct the tests did, in fact, test positive for asbestos. However, J&J blamed these results on an “auxiliary room” with an allegedly asbestos-contaminated air conditioner.

“In addition to their standard preparation rooms, one of the laboratories deviated from their normal protocol by using an auxiliary room,” J&J explains. “In that auxiliary room, five samples were prepared, and three initially tested positive for asbestos. Upon this finding, the laboratory undertook an investigation and determined that a portable air conditioner in use during sample preparation in the auxiliary room was contaminated with asbestos. No asbestos was detected in any of the samples when prepared in the standard room.”

Even assuming for the sake of argument that J&J is correct that the asbestos fibers detected in the baby powder were the product of a contaminated air conditioning unit, it still is factually incorrect for the company to declare unequivocally that the tests “found no asbestos”, as J&J claims.

“The finding underscores the importance of investigating any positive test result,” the company’s press release says, seeming to imply that the findings of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said it discovered small amounts of asbestos in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder, also should not be trusted. “Even when careful safeguards are followed, asbestos contamination may be introduced during sample division, storage, preparation and analysis, according to the American Society for Testing and Materials, an International Standards Organization that identifies contamination as a concern in asbestos analysis.”

The October 18 recall announcement, which covered approximately 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder, marked a stunning about-face for the company, which long had maintained a line of absolute denials when it came to the presence of asbestos fibers in its talcum-powder products.

Though issued “[o]ut of an abundance of caution,” the voluntary recall came as a result of “a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer.”

At the time, J&J said it had “immediately initiated a rigorous, thorough investigation into this matter” and was “working with the FDA to determine the integrity of the tested sample, and the validity of the test results.”

The October 28 announcement appears to have the product this promised investigation, with the company once again only muddying the waters in an instance where consumers are owed clarity as to the actual risks posed by this commonly used product specifically marketed for use on babies.

Facing roughly 15,000 talc-cancer lawsuits in the United States alone, Johnson & Johnson certainly has motivation to cast doubt upon any connection between its talcum-powder products and cancer. To date, juries have delivered multiple verdicts running into the millions—and even one running into the billions—of dollars, determining that asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder caused the alleged victims to develop mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

However, even with this latest announcement that its own tests have contradicted the FDA’s conclusions, J&J will have a more challenging time maintaining its adamant denials of any talc-asbestos connection going forward.

Sources:

Johnson & Johnson. (28 October 2019). 15 New Tests from the Same Bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder Previously Tested by FDA Find No Asbestos. Press Release

Johnson & Johnson. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall A Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Press Release

Talcum Powder Recall News: ‘I’m Not Aware Of Our Baby Powder Or Talc Containing Asbestos’: J&J CEO Denied Talc-Asbestos Link Under Oath Just Weeks Before Recall

October 28, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Less than two weeks before his company announced the recall of some 33,000 bottles of its signature Johnson’s Baby Powder over asbestos-contamination concerns, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky testified in a sworn deposition on October 3 that he did not have personal knowledge of the presence of asbestos fibers in J&J’s talc-based products, Reuters reported October 22. The contents of Gorsky’s deposition had not been previously reported.

“We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos,” the J&J CEO testified under oath, per Reuters. “I’m not aware of our baby powder or talc containing asbestos.”

However, internal company documents dating back decades, obtained during the pretrial discovery process for previous talc-cancer lawsuits, suggest that for years individuals at J&J had raised concerns about the presence of asbestos fibers in the company’s talcum-powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder. J&J never reported its concerns to regulators or disclosed them publicly, instead going to great lengths to deny both publicly and in court that asbestos had ever been detected in any J&J talc.

The recall announcement amounts to a sudden about-face for a company that, to date, had been adamant in issuing absolute denials about the presence of asbestos in its talcum powders, with one of its attorneys going to so far as to characterize plaintiffs’ claims in one talc-cancer case as the product of “lawsuit fiction,” a description that resulted in the presiding judge striking the attorney’s entire closing statement from the record.

Exposure to inhaled asbestos fibers is extremely closely correlated with the deadly and painful form of lung cancer known as pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers in talc products also are associated with the onset of ovarian cancer when used regularly for feminine hygiene purposes. J&J’s announcement of the limited, voluntary recall was prompted by the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) detecting small amounts of asbestos fibers in a single 22-ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder the agency’s researchers had purchased online.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) announced that it is initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer,” read the company announcement issued October 18, which has been posted to the FDA website.

J&J CEO Gorsky’s deposition came during a case brought by a former Indiana college professor who filed a lawsuit alleging that J&J’s talc-based products caused him to develop cancer.

Despite the recall announcement, J&J still maintains that its talc-based products are safe and that the voluntary recall was issued “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos, including prior tests by the FDA as recently as last month,” said a statement issued by J&J after the recall announcement.

How J&J officials and representatives will approach the topic while under oath and at risk of perjury remains to be seen.

Source:

Terhune, C.; Girion, L.; and Spector, M. (22 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson CEO testified Baby Powder was safe 13 days before FDA bombshell. Reuters

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts

Talcum Powder News: Walmart, CVS Remove J&J Baby Powder After FDA Asbestos Discovery

October 26, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Less than a week after consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson announced a voluntary recall of some 33,000 bottles of its signature baby powder, the world’s largest retailer and the United States’ largest pharmacy chain announced they were pulling bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder from store shelves. The recall was in response to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) identifying small amounts of hazardous asbestos fibers in a single bottle of the popular talcum-powder product purchased online.

While the ubiquitous pharmacy chain CVS announced that it would be removing all 22-ounce bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder from store shelves, big-box retailer Walmart said it would stop selling only those specific bottes subject to the J&J voluntary recall, which the company announced October 18. The lot of baby powder being recalled was packaged in 22-ounce bottles.

Though J&J’s voluntary recall extended only to the lot of which the bottle tested by the FDA was a member, CVS decided to take the additional measure of removing all 22-ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder from its stores.

“We took this step as a matter of precaution and to avoid customer confusion,” a CVS spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Rite Aid, the US’ third-largest pharmacy chain, went one step further, announcing that it would pull all Johnson’s Baby Powder from its stores.

Despite only a single bottle having tested positive, the revelation that the FDA had identified asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder marks a crucial turning point in litigation brought by plaintiffs alleging that the talc-based product the company touted for decades as “safe” and “pure” in fact contains asbestos fibers that can cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Federal talc-cancer lawsuits in the US have been centralized in the District of New Jersey as multi-district litigation (MDL) that presently contains more than 14,000 cases. J&J also faces scores of state-court claims, as well, with juries having returned mixed results to date in talc-cancer trials. Despite some juries having found J&J not liable, others have rendered verdicts running into the millions and even billions of dollars.

With J&J no longer able to claim that Johnson’s Baby Powder does not and has never contained asbestos, talc-cancer litigation could be entering an entirely new phase.

Sources:

United States Feeley, J. (24 October 2019). Walmart, CVS Pulling J&J Baby Powder Off Shelves Amid Recall. Bloomberg

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts

Talcum Powder Recall News: US FDA Confirms J&J Baby Powder Recall Over Asbestos

October 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Late in the day on Friday, October 18, the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) republished on its own site a statement released by Johnson & Johnson earlier in the day announcing that the company was recalling 33,000 bottles of its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder after the FDA detected asbestos fibers in a sample obtained from a single bottle purchased online.

The voluntary recall marks an abrupt about-face for the consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate, which has maintained for years both publicly and in court that its talcum-powder products are completely free of asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen that can cause mesothelioma when inhaled and ovarian cancer when applied to the female genital area.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) announced that it is initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer,” says the company announcement, republished on the FDA website.

Johnson & Johnson presently faces thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talcum-powder products, including its signature Johnson’s Baby Powder, contain asbestos that can and has caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Federal talc-cancer cases against J&J have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, with the MDL recently having passed the 14,300 case mark, according to a count of member cases conducted by TheLawFirm.com.

In addition to the federal MDL, Johnson & Johnson has faced numerous state court talc-cancer claims, with juries returning several verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, with damages running into the millions and, and in one case, the billions of dollars. Despite these victories, plaintiffs to date have obtained mixed results in talc-cancer lawsuits, meaning that the J&J recall could be a potential game changer.

With J&J attorneys no longer able to tell juries that J&J’s talc-based products have never been found to contain asbestos, as they have to date, their courtroom strategy likely will need some adjusting. However, the recall announcement gives some indication that J&J will continue to rely on its marketing-driven perception as a trustworthy brand in convincing both jurors and the public that the recall represents a one-off aberration and is not indicative of a wider problem.

“Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos,” the company announcement posted to the FDA website states, omitting that a number of studies have, in fact, identified asbestos fibers in J&J’s talc. “Not only do we and our suppliers routinely test to ensure our talc does not contain asbestos, our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities and global health authorities.”

“For 133 years, the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies have been committed to putting the needs and well-being of the people we serve first, and we will continue to do so,” the company announcement says, hanging on precariously to its past reputation as a dependable company as it faces more than 100,000 products liability lawsuits in the US alone on products ranging from baby powder to opioids to mesh implants.

Sources:

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall a Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Company Announcement. Recalls, Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Accessed 16 October 2019). Member Cases. Master Docket 3:16-md-02738. MDL 2738. Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Litigation

Talcum Powder Recall News: J&J recalls 33K bottles of baby powder after FDA finds asbestosca

October 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

After having for years adamantly denied in public and in court that the company’s talcum-powder products contain dangerous asbestos fibers, in a shocking reversal, Johnson & Johnson announced October 18 that it was recalling 33,000 bottles of its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder in the US after government researchers detected asbestos fibers in a bottle purchased online.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) announced that it is initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer,” J&J said in statement. “In parallel, JJCI has immediately initiated a rigorous, thorough investigation into this matter, and is working with the FDA to determine the integrity of the tested sample, and the validity of the test results.”

As of 1 pm eastern time on Friday, October 18, an FDA website dedicated to informing the public of product recalls in the US made no reference to the Johnson & Johnson baby powder recall.

Johnson & Johnson has faced thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talcum-powder products contain asbestos fibers that can cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, with more than 14,000 talc-cancer cases having been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. To date, plaintiffs have had mixed results in state courts, with juries having returned several multi-million dollar—and even one multi-billion dollar—verdicts on talc-cancer claims, but others having found J&J and its talc supplier not liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries.

All the while, J&J has stuck adamantly to talking points denying any of the company’s talc-based products have ever contained asbestos fibers. An attorney for J&J went so far as to call the plaintiffs’ claims “lawsuit fiction” in open court, a characterization that resulted in the judge taking the drastic move of striking the attorney’s entire closing statement from the record.

Now, with the FDA having detected at least some amounts of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder and J&J’s openly admitting publicly for the first time that at least some bottles of its flagship product have been contaminated with the dangerous carcinogen, J&J likely will have to ditch their increasingly tenuous absolute denials.

The change could have implications for thousands of talc-cancer plaintiffs, who now will be able to tell jurors that the nation’s chief health watchdog has detected asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder. J&J’s courtroom experts, who thus far have maintained that experts for the plaintiffs have misidentified what they allege to be asbestos fibers, will now face an even larger hurdle in convincing jurors that their testimony is more credible than the findings of the US FDA, or that asbestos fibers have been limited to a single batch of Johnson’s Baby Powder.

While J&J and its lawyers likely will rely on the fact that, to date, the FDA has only found a sub-trace amount of asbestos in a single bottle it tested, an increasing amount of scientific evidence supports the talc-cancer connection. For example, the J&J baby powder recall comes on the heels of a new study published October 10, which analyzed tissue samples from six mesothelioma patients and detected the same type of asbestos fibers as have been found in J&J talc in all six patients.

“Asbestos of the type found in talcum powder was found in all six cases evaluated,” the study revealed, concluding, “Exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powders can cause mesothelioma.”

Representatives for J&J said during a conference call held October 18 that its planned investigation into the asbestos contamination in its signature product could possible take 30 days or even longer, according to Reuters.

Sources:

Johnson & Johnson. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to Voluntarily Recall A Single Lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States. Johnson & Johnson Press Release

Reuters. (18 October 2019). Johnson & Johnson says baby powder investigation could take 30 days or more

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict: $110M Talc-Cancer Verdict Reversed By Missouri Appellate Court

October 16, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a decision filed October 15, the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed and vacated a $110-million talc-cancer verdict returned by a St. Louis-based jury in August 2017. While multibillion-dollar mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson claimed vindication over the state appellate court’s ruling, the lower-court verdict was reversed on procedural rather than factual grounds, with the three-judge panel finding that the Missouri state courts had not been the proper venue for the claims brought by the lower-court plaintiff, a Virginia resident.

“The underlying case was commenced by 62 plaintiffs against Appellants for damages related to the use of talc products,” the appellate decision, written by Judge Sherri B. Sullivan, explains. “Of the 62 plaintiffs 61 were non-residents of Missouri. Respondent [Lois Slemp], a native of Virginia, was one of the non-residents.”

At just about the same time as the St. Louis jury was awarding the lower-court plaintiff Lois Slemp nine-figures in damages on the finding that J&J’s talcum-powder products had caused her ovarian cancer, the United States Supreme Court was handing down its decision in the case Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, also known as BMS.

According to the Missouri appellate court decision, BMS “clarified the existing law on specific jurisdiction requiring the trial court have personal jurisdiction over the defendants with regard to each claim, rather than establishing personal jurisdiction allowing non-residents to join similar claims with those of Missouri residents,” a situation that is directly applicable to the 61 non-resident plaintiffs who had joined the Missouri talc-cancer lawsuit.

Relying on BMS, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District reversed the $110-million jury verdict, finding that, in light of BMS, the trial court did not properly have jurisdiction over Slemp's case.

“The talc products Respondent [and lower-court plaintiff Slemp] used were manufactured in Georgia, and purchased and used in Virginia,” says the panel’s decision, a situation that fails to give rise to jurisdiction by Missouri state courts.

The lower-court plaintiff Lois Slemp alleges that she developed ovarian cancer in 2012 after years of using J&J talcum-powder products. Judges Mary J. Hoff and Angela T. Quigless concurred in Judge Sullivan’s decision to reverse and vacate.

“The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled correctly in overturning a $110 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson,” J&J said in a statement after the appellate ruling, quoted in part by Reuters. “Of the four verdicts that Johnson & Johnson has appealed to this court, all four have been reversed.”

The company also used the opportunity to herald the appellate reversal as a supposed vindication of its products’ safety, rather than a procedural outcome mandated by a recent, precedent-setting US Supreme Court decision.

“The facts are clear - Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, as reflected in more than 40 years of scientific evidence,” J&J said, per Reuters.

However, an increasing number of court cases and new scientific evidence may be laying bare the hollowness of J&J’s continued denials.

Source:

Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District. (15 October 2019). Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. Lois Slemp vs. Johnson & Johnson, et al. No. ED106190

O’Donnell, C. (15 October 2019). Missouri appeals court overturns $110 million Johnson & Johnson talc verdict. Reuters

Moline, J. et al. (10 October 2019). Mesothelioma Associated with the Use of Cosmetic Talc. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict: Jury Deadlocks In Georgia’s First Talc Ovarian Cancer Trial

October 13, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

After a three-week trial and multiple days of jury deliberations, the judge presiding over Georgia’s first trial over allegations that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused a woman’s fatal ovarian cancer declared on October 1 a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury, with ten jurors finding in favor of the plaintiff and two remaining steadfast that J&J was not liable.

The trial arose from a lawsuit filed by the family of the late Diane Brower, who passed away in 2016 after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Along with thousands of other plaintiffs across the nation, Brower’s family alleged that she developed ovarian cancer as a result of applying J&J talcum-powder products to her genital area on a regular basis for decades.

Mirroring similar trials in other jurisdictions, the Georgia trial pitted experts for the plaintiffs against those presented by the defense, with both parties vying to make the jury believe the science presented by its side. Lawyers for Bower’s family further presented internal J&J documents from as far back as the 1950s purporting to show the company was aware of the dangers of talc but did nothing to warn the public or make its products safer.

During the three days of deliberations, jurors asked for clarification as to the law regarding “proximate cause”, seeking further guidance as to the legal standard for drawing a causal link between J&J talc products and Bower’s ovarian cancer. Apparently, two jurors remained steadfast in their determination that J&J was not legally responsible despite ten of their peers finding otherwise.

After the judge’s mistrial declaration, attorneys for the plaintiffs expressed disappointment in the outcome but took some solace in knowing a majority of jurors had sided with Bower’s family.

“After a lengthy trial and three days of deliberations, it is unfortunate that the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict,” Ted Meadows, an attorney representing the plaintiff, told the Courtroom View Network, which live streamed the trial. “Scientific studies and internal company documents show the liability of Johnson & Johnson and the link of Baby Powder use to ovarian cancer. We will continue to move forward with these important claims on behalf of ovarian cancer victims in venues across the nation.”

For its part, J&J shared its vague, non-legally-binding condolences with all cancer patients generally while expressing confidence in its chances during a retrial.

“We sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, and we understand patients and their families are seeking answers,” J&J said in a statement. “We are grateful to the jury for their time and believe this outcome reflects the diligent review by the jurors of the facts in this case. We look forward to a new trial to present our defense, which rests on decades of independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations, none of which have found that Johnson’s Baby Powder causes cancer.”

The Georgia mistrial declaration comes on the heels of two California state court verdicts on talc-mesothelioma claims, which resulted in mixed decisions, with one ending in a $40.3 million verdict for the plaintiff and another finding J&J not liable. The three different outcomes in three different talc-cancer trials that concluded within weeks of one another is representative of the mixed verdicts returned by juries to date.

Thousands of federal talc-cancer claims against Johnson & Johnson have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, with roughly 14,120 cases having joined the MDL as of September 30, according to a count of the court’s list of member cases.

Sources:

Crisco, A. (4 October 2019). BREAKING UPDATE: Mistrial, as Jury Deadlocks in Georgia Wrongful Death Talc Case Against J&J. Courtroom View Network (CVN)

Law360. (9 October 2019). BREAKING: J&J Cleared By Calif. Jury In Talc Cancer Retrial

Sammon, J. (9 October 2019). Jurors in month-long talc trial find Johnson & Johnson not to blame for woman’s mesothelioma. Northern California Record

Simon Greenstone Panatier, P.C. (30 September 2019). California Jury Returns $40 Million Talc Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson. PR Newswire

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Accessed 30 September 2019). Member Cases. Civil Docket For Case #: 3-16-md-02738-FLW-LHG. MDL 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practice, and Products Liability Litigation

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict: SoCal Jury Finds J&J Not Liable On Talc-Mesothelioma Claims

October 12, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

The back-and-forth bout between plaintiffs and multibillion-dollar conglomerate Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company’s talc-based products cause cancer concluded another round Wednesday, October 9, with J&J scoring the latest victory in the retrial of a lawsuit filed by a woman alleging that asbestos fibers in J&J talcum-powder products caused her to develop mesothelioma. Illustrating the mixed results returned in talc-cancer cases thus far, the verdict in favor of J&J comes just a week and a day after a separate jury, also located in southern California, ordered the company to pay $40.3 million in damages on similar allegations and evidence.

The retried case involved plaintiff Carolyn Weirick, a former school counselor, who said she developed mesothelioma due to more than 40 years of regular exposure to asbestos fibers found in J&J talc-based products, including the company’s flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder. As with the other talc-cancer trials that have preceded it, the case essentially boiled down to a battle of expert witnesses, with experts for the plaintiff’s testifying that they had identified asbestos fibers in J&J talc and experts for the defendant company arguing to the contrary.

The month-long trial was the second conducted in Weirick’s case, with the first trial a year prior having resulted in a deadlocked jury. This time, jurors were able to reach a verdict, voting ten jurors to two that J&J was not liable for Weirick’s mesothelioma.

Despite Weirick’s loss, plaintiffs have had a number of notable successes in holding J&J accountable for mesothelioma and ovarian cancer allegedly caused by the company’s talcum-powder products. Most prominently, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury awarded 22 plaintiff groups $4.6 billion in damages on talc-cancer claims.

Despite the recent California state court victory, J&J still faces approximately 14,000 federal lawsuits over talc-cancer allegations, with those cases having been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

J&J has adamantly maintained both in public and in court that its talc-based products do not contain asbestos fibers and that they do not cause ovarian cancer.

Sources:

Law360. (9 October 2019). BREAKING: J&J Cleared By Calif. Jury In Talc Cancer Retrial

Sammon, J. (8 October 2019). Closing arguments made in woman’s lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over mesothelioma diagnosis. Northern California Record

Sammon, J. (9 October 2019). Jurors in month-long talc trial find Johnson & Johnson not to blame for woman’s mesothelioma. Northern California Record

Patrick, R. (13 July 2018.) Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Talcum Powder Lawsuit: Attys Give Closing Statements In Calif. J&J Talc-Cancer Trial

October 9, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On October 9, jurors in Southern California heard closing arguments in the re-trial of a case filed by a woman who alleges that she developed the deadly cancer mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos fibers she says were present in talcum-powder products made by consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson. A year ago, a trial on the same lawsuit resulted in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury. Now, the case goes to the new jury to see if it can reach a verdict.

The case at issue is that of former school counselor Carolyn Weirick, who, along with thousands of other plaintiffs who have filed similar lawsuits against J&J, alleged that the company for decades has concealed evidence that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, contained the hazardous substance asbestos, which is extremely closely correlated with the deadly and painful cancer known as mesothelioma. In particular, asbestos exposure is linked to pleural mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the lungs.

“This bottle and more than a hundred like it contained asbestos,” Jay Stuemke, an attorney for the plaintiff Weirick, told the jury during closing arguments, referring to a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder he held in his hand, according to the Northern California Record. “This disease is killing her. This is a chance for you to communicate clearly to Johnson & Johnson about their products. It is never acceptable for a cosmetic product to contain asbestos.”

Johnson & Johnson has maintained adamantly both in public and in court that its talc-based products do not and have never contained asbestos, and, throughout the month-long trial, its attorneys in this case followed a now-familiar playbook of accusing the plaintiffs of cherry-picking evidence and using junk science to purportedly show the presence of asbestos fibers in J&J products.

“Allegations without evidence are not proof,” John Ewald, an attorney representing J&J, said during his side’s closing remarks. “Speculation is not evidence.”

Lawyers for J&J further blasted the testimony of plaintiff witness Dr. William Longo, who has testified on behalf of plaintiffs in numerous talc-cancer trials. Dr. Longo says he has identified asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder, but J&J attorney Ewald blasted Dr. Longo as a profit-seeking schemer who has profited to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by falsely claiming that he has identified asbestos in J&J products.

“Dr. Longo believes he’s the only one who can find asbestos,” Ewald said. “Asbestos in talc is an urban legend.”

Meanwhile, during the closing argument for the plaintiff, Weirick’s attorneys took aim at J&J’s experts, specifically Dr. Matthew Sanchez of RJ Lee Group laboratory, leveling similar claims. Plaintiff’s lawyer Stuemke accused Dr. Sanchez and the lab of being stooges for industry, in this case simply by labeling asbestos fibers they detected in J&J talc with a different name.

“The human body doesn’t care how you label it,” Stuemke told jurors. “What matters is what the fiber is. J&J believes if you call it something else it’s safe.”

“[RJ Lee Group is] the company to go to if you have a problem [with asbestos],” Stuemke also said, adding that at least one critic had labeled RJ Lee Group a “whore”.

This case of dueling experts is now in the hands of the jurors, who may or may not have better success than the last jury in reaching agreement on which side is backed by the stronger science.

To date, J&J has had a mixed record fending off thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-based products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brand powders, cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. While some juries have found J&J and its talc-suppliers not liable on talc-cancer claims, others have awarded plaintiffs eight, nine, and even a ten-figure verdict on allegations that J&J’s products caused their, or their loved one’s, cancer.

Over 14,000 active federal talc-cancer lawsuits against J&J have been centralized as multidistrict litigation in the District of New Jersey.

Source:

Sammon, J. (8 October 2019). Closing arguments made in woman’s lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over mesothelioma diagnosis. Northern California Record

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict: Calif. Jury Says J&J Must Pay $40M On Talc-Mesothelioma Claim

October 1, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

After six days of deliberations, a southern California jury has found multi-billion-dollar mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson liable for a plaintiff’s mesothelioma, ordering J&J to pay $40 million in damages to the victim and her husband.

The lawsuit was brought by current Idaho-residents Nancy Cabibi and her husband Phil, who alleged that Nancy developed mesothelioma following years of regular exposure to J&J’s talc-based products, which the Cabibi’s, and thousands of other plaintiffs nationwide, say contain dangerous asbestos fibers.

According to a statement released by the Mrs. Cabibi’s lawyers following the verdict, “Testing of her body tissue showed the presence of tremolite and anthophyllite asbestos, known contaminants of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, both of which were manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and both of which Mrs. Cabibi used.”

Johnson & Johnson has adamantly maintained both publicly and in court that its talcum-powder products do not contain asbestos, exposure to which is extremely closely correlated with the development of pleural mesothelioma, a particularly deadly and painful form of cancer than afflicts the lining of the lungs. In the case of Mrs. Cabibi, attorneys for J&J had argued at trial that “Mrs. Cabibi was exposed to asbestos through living in an area of Los Angeles home to industry, though she never worked in or even entered any facilities where she would have been exposed to asbestos,” her lawyers said.

While plaintiffs have achieved mixed results in suing J&J on talc-mesothelioma claims, the most recent California case represents yet another in a growing list of multi-million-dollar verdicts in favor of talc-cancer victims. In mid-September, a New Jersey state court jury in Middlesex County found in favor of four groups of talc-mesothelioma plaintiffs, awarding them a total of $37.3 million in damages.

Most prominently, J&J and its talc supplier were hit with a $4.6 billion verdict in July 2018 when a St. Louis-based jury found in favor of 22 plaintiff groups suing on a combination of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer claims.

Thousands of federal talc-cancer claims have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) located in the District of New Jersey. According to a count of member cases performed by TheLawFirm.com, as of September 30, the J&J talc MDL included approximately 14,120 cases, with new cases literally being added by the court day.

In the recent California case, Mrs. Cabibi’s lawyers applauded the jury’s decision.

“Nancy Cabibi is fighting to survive every single day because of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder,” attorney David Greenstone said. “While we are very pleased with this verdict, we know that we must continue to fight on behalf of the Cabibi’s and so many others who have been harmed.”

Sources:

Simon Greenstone Panatier, P.C. (30 September 2019). California Jury Returns $40 Million Talc Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson. PR Newswire.

Diamond, M. (11 September 2019). Johnson & Johnson hit with $37.3M verdict in NJ talcum powder case. Asbury Park Press (APP) part of the USA Today Network

Partick, R. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Accessed 30 September 2019). Member Cases. Civil Docket For Case #: 3-16-md-02738-FLW-LHG. MDL 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practice, and Products Liability Litigation

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Testing Methods ’Not Appropriate’ Plaintiff Expert Says In Calif. Talc-Cancer Trial

September 30, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

An expert witness testifying for the plaintiff told a Southern California state court September 25 that the testing methods used by mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and third parties paid to conduct its research were fundamentally flawed, allowing asbestos fibers to be improperly identified as other substances.

Taking direct aim at J&J expert Dr. Matthew Sanchez of RJ Lee Group, Dr. Steven Compton of MVA Scientific Consultants in Georgia called the methods used by J&J’s experts “not appropriate,” adding that the process utilized “allows [J&J expert Dr. Sanchez] to change his answers. RJ Lee Group has been criticized for it.”

The trial, taking place in Torrance, California, is over claims brought by plaintiff Carolyn Weirick, who alleges, along with thousands of others who have sued Johnson & Johnson, that the the company’s talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, contain asbestos fibers, exposure to which is extremely closely correlated with the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

“Did the [asbestos] particles he [J&J expert Dr. Sanchez] identified, did he call them asbestos?” Leah Kagan, an attorney representing the plaintiff Weirick, asked Dr. Compton, according to an account published by the Northern California Record.

“Not always,” answered Dr. Compton. “Analyzing them [asbestos fibers] by using a different method, you could call it [asbestos] something else.”

Dr. Compton further testified that out of five talc samples he had tested, he had identified asbestos fibers in four of them.

On cross-examination, attorneys for J&J sought to challenge Dr. Compton’s credentials.

“You’re not a medical doctor, toxicologist, geologist, mineralogist?” asked attorney Warrington Parker, representing J&J, according to the Northern California Record.

“Correct,” Dr. Compton responded.

Parker further pointed out that, in his marketing materials, Dr. Compton promoted himself as a provider of expert witness testimony. Dr. Compton confirmed under questioning that he had testified in 200 cases since 2012.

In addition to numerous state-court lawsuits like that brought by the plaintiff Weirick, thousands of federal talc-cancer cases against J&J have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. In addition to allegations that its talc products contain asbestos fibers that can cause mesothelioma, J& also faces claims that years of regular exposure to its talcum powders can cause ovarian cancer.

While juries to date have returned mixed results in talc-cancer lawsuits, plaintiffs have achieved some resounding victories, most notably a $4.6-billion verdict returned by a St. Louis-based jury in July 2018 in a case brought by 22 plaintiff groups on talc-cancer claims.

Sources:

Sammon, J. (26 September 2019). Plaintiff expert witness says Johnson & Johnson expert’s testing for asbestos in baby powder flawed. Northern California Record

Robert, P. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Multiple Researchers Have Found Asbestos In J&J Baby Powder, Plaintiff Expert Testifies At Calif. Talc-Cancer Trial

September 26, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Multiple studies conducted by reputable, independent researchers have identified asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder, an expert called by a plaintiff suing Johnson & Johnson over talc-cancer claims testified in California state court September 24. Plaintiff Carolyn Weirick has sued J&J alleging that asbestos fibers in its talcum-powder products caused her to develop mesothelioma.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline testified for the plaintiff that not only has independent research identified asbestos in J&J’s talc, the company itself has been aware of its presence for more than half a century. Publicly and in court, J&J and its representatives have adamantly rejected any allegations that its products have ever contained asbestos.

“In the late 1950s, Johnson & Johnson contracted with labs and universities to evaluate the baby powder,” Dr. Jacqueline Moilne testified, according to the Northern California Record. “They used very different methodologies and they found measurable needles [asbestos fibers] in the cosmetic talc. They also tried to see if there was a method to remove [the asbestos]. It was unsuccessful.”

The plaintiff Weirick is just one of thousands of plaintiffs to sue the consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate over allegations that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder and its popular Shower to Shower brand products, caused the plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after years of regular exposure. Roughly 14,000 federal lawsuits filed against J&J on talc-cancer claims have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

The ongoing California state court trial, being conducted in the southern California city of Torrance, is a retrial of an earlier case tried in the nearby city of Pasadena, which resulted in a deadlocked jury. The plaintiff Weirick alleges that she contracted mesothelioma following four decades of use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. She is seeking $28 million in damages.

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, with approximately 3,200 cases reported annually. Its onset is extremely closely correlated with asbestos exposure.

The plaintiffs expert Dr. Moline previously has testified at numerous talc-cancer trials. She explained that multiple researchers had independently identified asbestos in J&J talc. Additionally, the plaintiff’s team had bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder that had been in the plaintiff’s possession tested for asbestos by Georgia-based microscope researcher Dr. William Longo.

“Did [Dr. Longo] find asbestos?” an attorney representing the plaintiff Weirick asked Dr. Moline.

“He did,” she responded.

Dr. Longo himself had testified at trial the previous week, with attorneys for J&J trying to undermine the credibility of his results by pointing to an audit of his MAS lab conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which identified “objectionable practices” at the lab, though Dr. Longo downplayed the incident the result of mere bureaucratic errors that in no way impugn on the integrity of his research, according to an account published by the Northern California Record based on a livestream provided by the Courtroom View Network.

Sources:

Sammon, J. (24 September 2019). Plaintiff witness in mesothelioma trial says there is asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. Northern California Record

Sammon, J. (23 September 2019). J&J undercuts testimony of plaintiff’s star witness in ongoing trial over alleged asbestos in baby powder. Northern California Record

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder News: ‘I Recommend We Do Nothing’: Former J&J R&D Head Faces Questions Over Company Inaction After Independent Talc-Asbestos Findings

September 19, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

“I recommend we do nothing,” reads a letter circulated internally at multi-billion-dollar mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson during the 1990s, referring to the findings of independent researchers who reported that they had detected the dangerous substance asbestos in baby powder. The letter, presented in state court in Torrance, California on September 13, further advised that company representatives refrain from discussing the alleged contamination of baby powder at an upcoming conference unless asked directly about the issue, the The Northern California Record has reported.

The letter was presented during the testimony of former J&J director of research and development John Hopkins, who was called to the stand for a second day in a trial over claims brought by plaintiff Carolyn Weirick, who sued J&J alleging that she developed the rare cancer known as mesothelioma following decades of exposure to J&J talc products, including those sold under its Shower to Shower brand.

On the particular copy of the letter presented at trial, someone had circled “do nothing” in pen and written “I agree” beside it, per the Northern California Record.

Jay Stuemke, an attorney for the plaintiff Weirick, pressed Hopkins on why J&J had not taken more aggressive action following the release in 1991 of research led by Dr. Alice M. Blount, who published that she had found asbestos in baby powder.

“Dr. Blount’s document was read [by J&J], but it did not comport with company findings that the baby powder was asbestos free,” Hopkins testified, per the Northern California Record.

Dr. Blount’s findings were based on her use of a novel testing method, known as “concentration”, not employed by researchers at J&J. The concentration process involves dissolving talcum powder in liquid before spinning it in a centrifuge to isolate its contents. J&J has said it does not utilize the process because they consider it ineffective.

“[Dr. Blount] found asbestos in baby powder, right?” Stuemke asked,

“Yes, that was her opinion,” replied the former J&J exec Hopkins. The internal J&J letter further suggests that, into the 1990s, J&J still was relying on research conducting internally in the 1970s to support claims that its talc products were asbestos-free. However, when the company did perform additional research in the 1990s, court documents indicate, it detected the presence of tremolite, a mineral known to contain asbestos in some instances.

“Your opinion is that Johnson & Johnson talc never had any asbestos, correct?” Stuemke asked.

“That’s correct,” Hopkins answered, explaining, “There are many cases that showed tremolite in non-asbestos form in the [talc] ore.”

Attorneys for the plaintiff Weirick further introduced evidence that concerns over asbestos in baby powder date back nearly half a century, asking Hopkins, who was head of J&J’s research and development from 1976 until 2000, about a 1974 letter from a customer asking about a news report she had read warning of the dangers of asbestos in baby powder. The company wrote back reassuring the customer that J&J talc was safe.

“Did [Johnson & Johnson officials and employees] seek to compromise people?” Stuemke asked.

“No,” Hopkins responded. “They were trying to understand the truth.”

Johnson & Johnson presently faces roughly 14,000 lawsuits over allegations that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Federal lawsuits have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, and the company faces numerous state court cases, as well.

While juries to date have returned mixed results on talc-cancer claims, J&J collectively has been hit with billions of dollars in damages. Most notably, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury returned a $4.6-billion verdict in a case brought by 22 groups of plaintiffs on allegations that J&J talc had caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Most recently, on September 11, a New Jersey state court jury returned a $37.3-million verdict in favor of four plaintiff groups on talc-mesothelioma claims .

Sources:

Sammon, J. (16 September 2019). J&J corporate spokesman says company had zero tolerance for asbestos in baby powder trial. Northern California Record

Diamond, M.L. (11 September 2019). Johnson & Johnson hit with $37.3M verdict in NJ talcum powder case. Asbury Park Press Part of the USA Today Network

Patrick, R. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc MDL Approaches 14,000 Cases

September 15, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

With new cases being added nearly every day, multidistrict litigation (MDL) over allegations that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma continues to grow, approaching 14,000 total cases as of September 13, according to a count conducted by TheLawFirm.com based on the court’s list of member cases.

Meanwhile, J&J continues to face hundreds if not thousands of similar claims in state court as well, with a New Jersey state court jury on September 11 returning a $37.3 million verdict in favor of four groups of plaintiffs who claimed that J&J’s talc-based products contain asbestos fibers that caused the alleged victims to develop mesothelioma. Multiple times throughout the trial, attorneys for J&J had asked the judge to declare a mistrial, and the company announced immediately that it intended to appeal the verdict.

Formed in October 2016, as of September 13, a total of 13,927 federal lawsuits had joined the federal MDL.

Despite the thousands of lawsuits and multiple adverse verdicts, consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson continues to maintain adamantly both in public and in court that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, do not cause cancer.

“Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, as multiple juries have found in recent months, and as confirmed by more than 40 years of independent scientific evaluations,” read a statement released by a J&J spokesperson following the September 11 New Jersey state court verdict, as quoted by the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA Today Network.

However, juries and even judges have pushed back on J&J’s attempts to paint a narrative depicting the whole talc-cancer fiasco as a get-rich-quick scheme hatched by unscrupulous plaintiffs lawyers who want only to wrongly extract millions from a venerable company that has done nothing wrong. For example, at the New Jersey state court trial, Johnson & Johnson attorney Diane Sullivan had her entire closing argument struck from the record by Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi, with Judge Viscomi decrying Sullivan’s insinuations that attorneys for the plaintiffs had concocted evidence as part of a sinister plot.

In the largest rebuff of J&J’s arguments to date, a St. Louis-based jury in July 2018 ordered the company to pay 22 women or their estates a total of $4.6 billion in damages on allegations that the company’s talcum-powder products had caused the victims to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Sources:

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Accessed 13 September 2019). Member Cases. MDL 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation

Diamond, M.L. (11 September 2019). Johnson & Johnson hit with $37.3M verdict in NJ talcum powder case. Asbury Park Press Part of the USA Today Network

Patrick, R. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: NJ Jury Says J&J Must Pay $37.3M On Talc-Cancer Claims

September 15, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Following a contentious two month trial that saw a defense attorney's closing statement stricken in its entirety, on Wednesday, September 11, a New Jersey state court jury found multibillion-dollar conglomerate Johnson & Johnson liable on allegations that its talcum-powder products contain dangerous asbestos fibers that can cause mesothelioma, ordering the company to pay four separate groups of plaintiffs a total of $37.3 million.

“I think when the jury hears all the evidence, despite how hotly contested the case was, they come to a just conclusion,” Christopher Placitella, representing plaintiff D’Angella McNeill, told the Asbury Park Press, a part of the USA Today Network.

Johnson & Johnson, which already had urged the judge to declare a mistrial for having, in their view, improperly stricken their attorney’s closing statement, said that it would appeal the verdict.

“The trial suffered egregious legal and evidentiary errors, including the inability to present key information to the jury and the striking of our entire closing argument, that required us to move for a mistrial on nearly a dozen separate occasions,” commented a spokesperson for J&J, as quoted by the Asbury Park Press.

Despite the verdict, the company maintained its hard line of absolute denial regarding talc-cancer claims. Despite having suffered billions of dollars in adverse verdicts on allegations that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, J&J continues to deny any connection.

“Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, as multiple juries have found in recent months, and as confirmed by more than 40 years of independent scientific evaluations,” J&J’s statement continued. “Importantly all verdicts against Johnson & Johnson that have been through the appeals process have been overturned.”

In the instant case, which began June 23 before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi, the jury concluded that J&J’s talc-based products did, in fact, contain asbestos, rendering these products defective as sold. Further, the jury found that the asbestos in J&J’s products was the cause of the alleged victims’ mesothelioma.

The $37.3 million total verdict was divided up as follows: Plaintiff D’Angela McNeill was awarded $14.7 million; David and Darlene Etheridge were awarded $9.45 million; Douglas and Roslyn Barden were awarded $7.25 million; and William and Elizabeth Ronning were awarded $5.9 million.

“I think its another shot across the bow of J&J,” Mark Eveland, a specialist in administering asbestos-related claims, told the Asbury Park Press. “It’s got to be a wake-up call for them. Not the first wake-up call, but it’s significant.”

J&J faces thousands of lawsuits nationwide over talc-cancer claims, with over 10,000 federal lawsuits having been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Source:

Diamond, M.L. (11 September 2019). Johnson & Johnson hit with $37.3M verdict in NJ talcum powder case. Asbury Park Press Part of the USA Today Network

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: After Atty’s Closing Argument Struck, J&J Wants Mistrial In Talc-Cancer Trial

September 11, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

With the entirety of one of its attorney’s closing remarks having been stricken from the record by a New Jersey trial court judge last week, Johnson & Johnson has now requested that the court declare a mistrial in the case of four people who claim they developed mesothelioma following years of exposure to asbestos fibers allegedly contained in J&J’s talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder.

On September 4, the judge overseeing the New Jersey state court trial in New Brunswick took the extreme measure of striking the entire closing statement of J&J lawyer Weil Gotshal, apparently because of Gotshal’s references to “lawsuit fiction” with regards to the cases brought by the four plaintiffs and other alleged talc-mesothelioma victims.

Now, J&J is pushing back, saying the punitive action was uncalled for and necessitates the declaration of a mistrial, Law360 reported September 10.

The trial represents just one of thousands of cases facing Johnson & Johnson over allegations that its talc-based products cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Federal talc-cancer cases against J&J have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, where well over 10,000 cases have now been filed.

Though plaintiffs have had a mixed record in bringing lawsuits based on allegations that J&J’s popular talcum-powder products can cause cancer, a number of juries across the United States already have found against the consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and device-making mega-conglomerate on talc-cancer claims, ordering the company to pay billions of dollars in damages.

Most notably, a St. Louis-based jury in July 2018 found in favor of 22 plaintiffs who alleged that years of regular use of J&J talcum-powder products had caused them or their loved ones to develop cancer, compelling J&J to pay $4.6 billion in damages.

New Jersey state court juries specifically have a prior record of returning large verdicts on talc-cancer claims, with a New Jersey jury previously having awarded $117 million, including punitive damages, to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife on allegations that he developed mesothelioma after years of exposure J&J talc products.

Sources:

Law360. (10 September 2019). J&J Wants Mistrial For Struck Talc Trial Closing Arguments

Law360. (4 September 2019). BREAKING: Weil Atty’s Closing Argument Struck As J&J Talc Trial Wraps

Patrick, R. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Law360. (30 April 2018). J&J Urges Court To Toss $117M Verdicts In J&J Talc Case

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: NJ Judge Strikes J&J Atty’s Entire Closing Statement in Talc-Cancer Trial

Septembert 5, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a stunning turn of events taking place just as a trial over talc-cancer claims is winding down, a New Jersey judge has ordered stricken from the record the entire closing statement of an attorney representing mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson, Law360 reported September 4. The extreme measure apparently was taken in response to the attorney’s reference during closing statements delivered September 4 to the role of “lawsuit fiction” in the cases of four plaintiffs who allege that they developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos fibers they say are present in J&J’s talcum-powder products.

For years, attorneys and spokespersons for J&J have adamantly maintained in public and in court that the company’s talc-based products do not cause cancer, attempting to portray any such links as unscientific and based on the machinations of money-hungry trial lawyers, who, in a quest for monetary gain, have created false narratives about links between the company’s talcum-powder products and cancer.

Such characterizations fly in the face of evidence presented at previous talc-cancer trials, which includes both expert scientific testimony and internal company documents dating back decades.

The trial is the latest in a series of lawsuits brought against the consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate alleging that its talc-based products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Federal talc-cancer claims have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, and New Jersey state court talc-cancer lawsuits have been consolidated as muticounty litigation (MCL).

In all, J&J faces over ten thousand talc-cancer lawsuits in the United States alone.

J&J and its talc suppliers already have been ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages based on talc-cancer claims. Most notably, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury returned a $4.6-billion verdict holding the company liable for the ovarian cancer and mesothelioma of 22 women, some of whom were represented by their estates.

Sources:

Law360. (4 September 2019). BREAKING: Weil Atty’s Closing Argument Struck As J&J Talc Trial Wraps

Patrick, R. and Joel Currier. (13 July 2018). Talc cancer verdict of $4.6 billion from St. Louis jury sends ‘very powerful message’. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Calgary Woman Files Class Action Talc-Cancer Lawsuit Against J&J

Septembert 5, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Between its alleged role as “kingpin” to the ongoing opioid epidemic, a $1 billion lawsuit filed by the state of California over its allegedly improper marketing of mesh implants, and a $1 billion settlement of claims over allegedly defective hip implants, embattled mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson continues to get hit with new legal actions making serious allegations about the company’s commitment to safety and transparency for products ranging from pharmaceuticals to medical devices to consumer goods.

Adding to the company’s mounting legal woes, a Calgary, Canada woman has filed a class-action lawsuit “on her behalf and on behalf of all women in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada who used [J&J talcum-powder products]…and have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” according to the statement of claim, quoted by the Calgary Sun.

The class action seeks $11 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff regularly applied J&J’s Shower to Shower brand talcum-powder products to her genital area from the age of 13 to 36, when she underwent surgery to remove large tumors that had developed in her ovaries. However, the plaintiff would not learn of the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer until some 20 years later when, in 2017, a friend shared a news article about talc-cancer lawsuits.

“This is when the plaintiff discovered that Shower to Shower was linked to ovarian cancer,” the lawsuit says, per the Calgary Sun.

“The plaintiff claims that the defendant’s talc products were not safe for use, they were inherently dangerous, and increased the risk of the ovarian cancer to women who applied it to their (private) area,” the lawsuit alleges. “The plaintiff claims that the defendants have known for decades that their talc products contain known carcinogens that the World Health Organization has stated there is no healthy exposure to.”

The Canadian class action adds to the tens of thousands of lawsuits J&J faces around the world over talc-cancer claims alone. In addition to allegations that regular talcum-powder use can lead to ovarian cancer in women, J&J also has faced numerous lawsuits claiming that the company for decades had been aware of the presence of asbestos in its talc-based products but failed to alert either consumers or regulators. Asbestos is a dangerous substance extremely closely correlated with the particularly deadly and painful form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

The Calgary class action makes similar asbestos-related claims.

“The defendant failed to disclose this latent defect in their product, which resulted in the health and lives of the plaintiff and the class members being put in jeopardy,” the lawsuit states, referring to the presence of the asbestos in J&J talc products.

While, according to the Calgary Sun, J&J has yet to file a response to the lawsuit in court, the company in the past has adamantly denied any link between cancer of any kind and its talc-based consumer products. The company further has rejected allegations that it was aware of the presence of asbestos in its talc for decades but concealed the information rather than acting upon it, claims that appear to be supported by internal documents revealed during prior litigation.

In the United States, federal talc-cancer lawsuits have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. That MDL presently contains over 12,000 cases.

While much focus has been placed on an Oklahoma court’s recent $500-million opioid verdict against J&J, the company’s financial exposure over talc-cancer claims already has run into the multiple billions of dollars. In July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury returned a $4.6 billion verdict. in favor of 22 plaintiffs who alleged that J&J talc-based products had caused them or their decedent (in instances of estates suing on behalf of the deceased) to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Sources:

Martin, K. (3 September 2019). Class-action lawsuit filed in Calgary alleging baby powder causes ovarian cancer. Calgary Sun

Drash, W. (12 March 2019). Johnson & Johnson acted as opioid ‘kingpin,’ Oklahoma attorney general says. CNN

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Kentucky Jury Finds J&J, Colgate Not Liable On Talc-Asbestos Claims

August 7, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

A Kentucky state court jury has found consumer-goods giants Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive not liable on claims that a deceased woman’s mesothelioma was caused by asbestos fibers present in the companies’ talcum-powder products, Bloomberg reported August 2.

The family of Donna Ann Hayes sued the companies claiming that Hayes developed mesothelioma in her 70s as a result of having for years inhaled asbestos fibers present in the companies’ talc-based products. Experts for the plaintiffs testified that they had detected asbestos fibers in talc products sold by Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive, including J&J’s flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder and Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet.

Experts for the defendant companies argued that there is no evidence of asbestos fibers in the companies’ talcum-powder products and that Hayes’ mesothelioma was caused by other factors.

“We’re disappointed the jury didn’t see the evidence the way we saw it,” said Joe Satterley, who represented Hayes’ family during the two-week trial, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for J&J expressed satisfaction with the jury’s decision, touting the verdict as the company's sixth win in talc-mesothelioma cases. (However, it should be noted that J&J also has had at least that many verdicts go against it on talc-cancer claims, having been ordered to pay a total of over $5 billion in damages.)

“We are pleased the jury rejected the claim that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos and caused the plaintiff’s disease,” wrote J&J spokesperson Kim Montagnino in an email quoted by Bloomberg.

J&J faces roughly 15,000 talc cancer lawsuits, in the United States alone. The vast majority of these cases are federal claims that have been centralized in multidistrict litigation (MDL) taking place in the District of New Jersey.

Johnson & Johnson also reportedly is facing a criminal probe by the US Department of Justice, with investigators looking into whether the company may have fraudulently misrepresented to the public and regulators what the company knew and when about the cancer-causing potential of its talcum-powder products.

Sources:

Feeley, J. (2 August 2019). J&J, Colgate Get Jury to Reject Claims Talc Fouled By Asbestos. Bloomberg

Bloomberg. (12 July 2019). J&J Draws U.S. DOJ Probe on Talcum Powder Asbestos Denials

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Crucial Expert Witness Hearings Wrapping Up In J&J Talc MDL

August 2, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

“The use of talcum powder products, including those manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, when applied to the female perineum, is a causative factor in the development of epithelial ovarian cancer,” gynecologic oncologist Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North-Carolina Chapel Hill, stated unequivocally before a federal judge July 30, according to the Pennsylvania Record.

Following more than a week of hearings aimed at determining the admissibility of expert testimony like that of Dr. Clarke-Pearson's in multidistrict litigation (MDL) over allegations that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products cause cancer, the sides are expected to conclude their examination of potential expert witnesses on Wednesday, July 31. With more than 12,000 individual lawsuits involved in the MDL, and with J&J seeking to have the testimony of all of the plaintiffs’ proposed experts excluded and the plaintiffs' claims dismissed, the stakes could not be higher for either side.

“The responsible biological mechanism is migration of talc particles to the Fallopian tubes and ovaries, inciting an inflammatory process that includes oxidative stress and specific genetic mutations,” Dr. Clarke-Pearson, who has edited three medical textbooks and authored over 50 medical textbook chapters, explained, drawing a the direct scientific connection between J&J talc-based products and the development of ovarian cancer.

The determination as to which experts are permitted to present admissible evidence to the court and which are excluded ultimately will play a crucial role in the outcome of the MDL, which in turn will have ramifications for talc-cancer litigation taking place in state courts and around the world. With the case hinging on highly technical scientific evidence, including disputes over whether certain microscopic fibers contained in J&J talc are asbestos or not, the party that succeeds in having its experts admitted will gain a considerable advantage in painting its preferred narrative.

While J&J continues to adamantly maintain that its talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, do not cause cancer, multiple juries have awarded plaintiffs a total of more than $5 billion in damages over talc-cancer claims Most notably, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based state court jury awarded 22 plaintiffs $4.69 billion in damages over allegations that J&J talc products caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

During the discovery process for these and other trials, plaintiffs have unearthed internal J&J documents suggesting that the company was aware of the presence of asbestos fibers in its talc for decades but, rather than warning consumers and notifying regulators, the company chose to conceal this information.

The MDL’s so-called Daubert hearings began July 22, with the ultimate decision as to admissibility falling completely to US District Judge Freda Wolfson, who is overseeing the massive litigation in the District of New Jersey. Judge Wolfson has indicated that she will not be issuing her admissibility ruling immediately following the conclusion of the hearings but will require some time to reach her decisions.

Source:

Malfitano, N. (31 July 2019). Eight-day hearing on viability of witnesses in talc lawsuits set to conclude. Pennsylvania Record

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Seeking Its Day In Court, J&J Asks Judge Not To Let Plaintiffs Dismiss Their Own Talc Cancer-Warning Case

July 29, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a rare legal move, consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has asked a judge not to allow the law firm that filed a claim seeking to compel J&J to include a cancer warning on its talcum-powder products to dismiss its own lawsuit, preferring instead the opportunity to fight the case in court, Bloomberg reported July 27.

The decision as to whether or not plaintiffs will be permitted to dismiss their own case falls to US District Judge George Wu, who is presiding over the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles. A hearing on the matter is schedule for Monday, July 30.

The claim was filed by the Lanier Law Firm, which has represented numerous plaintiffs pursuing lawsuits alleging that J&J’s talc-based products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The instant suit seeks to have the state require J&J to include a warning label on its talcum powder products pursuant to California’s Proposition 65, which requires disclosure, via a warning label, when a product contains known carcinogens.

While the Lanier Law Firm says that it has requested the court to dismiss its Prop 65 claim so that it can refile its complaint with additional named defendants, J&J accuses the law firm of seeking to back down because it fears a negative outcome, which could have ramifications for thousands of talc-cancer cases nationwide.

“The Lanier Law Firm commenced this action as a transparent tactical maneuver to improve their litigation position in personal-injury actions that they have pending against defendants across the country,” read a July 8 court filing by Johnson & Johnson, as quoted by Bloomberg. “They saw Proposition 65 as a potential vehicle to obtain a court-ordered cancer warning on defendants’ talcum powder products.”’

Somewhat unique for Prop 65 lawsuits, which often do not involve a plaintiff alleging harm as a result of the defendant’s noncompliance, the instant case contains individual damage claims filed by five separate individuals. This allowed lawyers for J&J to have the case removed from state to federal court.

Lanier Law Firm adamantly rejects J&J’s attempts to paint its filing of the lawsuit, and its later request to have it dismissed, as tactical moves aimed at strengthening its hand in other talc-cancer claims. Lanier Law Firm says it wants to refile including as a defendant Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which now owns the Shower to Shower brand talcum-powder products formerly sold by J&J. The plaintiffs further said they intended to name Claire’s Store Inc. as a defendant, as well, with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning earlier this year that asbestos had been detected in some of Claire’s Store’s talc-based products.

“We believe Valeant is a necessary party to the litigation and J&J refuses to allow us to add them into the current suit,” said Mark Lanier of Lanier Law Firm, per Bloomberg. “We believe firmly that J&J has asbestos in its talc. Our position on that hasn’t changed.”

Over 14,000 talc cancer lawsuits have been filed against J&J in the US alone, with federal products liability cases having been consolidated as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Source:

Pettersson, E. (27 July 2019). J&J Would Rather Fight a Cancer-Warning Lawsuit Than Let It Drop. Bloomberg

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J, Plaintiffs Spar Over Admissibility of Expert Witnesses in Talc-Cancer MDL

July 25, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Wednesday, July 23, attorneys representing consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson and those advocating on behalf of thousands of plaintiffs who allege that they or their loved ones have developed cancer as a result of J&J talcum-powder products continued their in-court battles over the admissibility of expert testimony in multidistrict litigation (MDL) taking place in the District of New Jersey.

The decision as to which experts will be allowed to present evidence is viewed by many observers as crucial to the MDL’s ultimate outcome, with experts for either side presenting contradictory conclusions on central issues such as whether asbestos fibers have been detected in J&J’s talcum powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder.

“Many millions of dollars are riding on how the judge comes down on the question of which experts can testify,” David Logan, professor of law at Roger Williams University, told Bloomberg. “The plaintiffs have the burden of proving the powders caused cancer. If they can’t offer an expert to tell jurors about that issue, the cases go down the drain.”

At issue July 23 was the admissibility of the testimony of Dr. William Longo, president of MAS, LLC, an “analytical and consulting laboratory” that, according to its website uses “the latest technology” to “provide quality and timely results” for customers seeking “to know the composition or morphology of bulk materials, particles or air quality constituents.”

Dr. Longo also has testified on behalf of plaintiffs in prior talc-cancer lawsuits. J&J is seeking to have Dr. Longo’s testimony, along with that of every other expert witness presented by plaintiffs, barred from testimony. The company accuses the plaintiffs’ experts of using “an unscientific methodology developed for litigation purposes,” per Bloomberg.

The decision as to which experts are admissible and which are excluded–so central to the outcome of the massive litigation, with millions and potentially billions of dollars at stake–falls squarely on US District Judge Freda Wolfson, who is presiding over the MDL. Formed in 2016, the MDL has centralized over 10,000 federal talc-cancer claims, with J&J facing roughly 14,000 total talc-cancer lawsuits.

J&J has had mixed results defending itself against prior talc-cancer lawsuits, which include claims both that long-term, regular use of J&J talc-based powders on the genital area can lead to ovarian cancer in women and that the talcum powders contain asbestos fibers, which are extremely closely linked with the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

While some juries have found J&J not liable on these claims in some cases, in others, juries have awarded plaintiffs verdicts running into nine and even ten figures. Most prominently, a St. Louis-based jury awarded 22 plaintiffs nearly $5 billion in damages on talc-cancer claims in July 2018.

Sources:

Feeley, J. (24 July 2019). J&J Targets Science Behind Thousands of Baby Powder-Cancer Cases. Bloomberg

MAS, LLC. (Accessed 24 July 2019). MAS, Premier Analytical & Consulting Laboratory. MAS Website

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Hearings On Expert Witness Admissibility Set To Begin In Talc-Cancer MDL

July 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Multidistrict litigation (MDL) centralizing federal lawsuits alleging that consumer-goods conglomerate , Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma reaches a critical phase July 29 as hearings begin over the admissibility of expert-witness testimony.

Judges’ rulings deeming which evidence will be admitted at trial and which evidence will be excluded from consideration are pivotal to any lawsuit, but particularly so where, as in the talc-cancer MDL, the questions raised require scientific expertise to answer. This means that plaintiffs and defendants will need to rely heavily on expert witnesses in making their case. With roughly 11,000 cases presently involved in the MDL, the stakes are even higher for both parties.

Underscoring the importance of the hearing, J&J has sought to have all of the nearly two dozen witnesses for the plaintiffs rejected and the plaintiffs’ cases dismissed.

“This is a critical phase in a longer process. Once the judge finds the experts are qualified, we can move on to issue the opinion or order,” Michelle Parfitt, a co-lead for the plaintiffs’ steering committee, told CNBC, which reported that the MDL accounts for 79% of all active talc-cancer lawsuits filed against J&J.

Presiding over the MDL, which is based in the District of New Jersey, is US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, who is expected to hear from one proposed expert witness per day during the course of the hearings, sometimes referred to as Daubert hearings. Judge Wolfson will consider a total of 11 potential experts, eight for plaintiffs and three for the defense.

While Johnson & Johnson has faced the brunt of talc-cancer lawsuits, being ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages to date, other named defendants in the MDL include household names such as Walmart and CVS, according to the court docket.

The MDL, created in October 2016 by order of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), centralized federal products liability claims alleging that long-term, regular exposure to J&J talc-based products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause cancer. Prior lawsuits have revealed internal J&J documents that suggest the company was aware of the presence of asbestos fibers in its talcum powder as far back as the 1960s and 1970s but failed to inform regulators or consumers.

Sources:

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (Accessed 22 July 2019). Civil Docket For Case #: 3:16-md-02738-FLW-LHG. In Re Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation

LaVito, A. (22 July 2019). Johnson & Johnson faces a crucial hearing Monday over thousands of talc baby powder lawsuits. CNBC

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Former Louisiana AG To Head Investigation Into Whether J&J Misled Investors

July 22, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

The former Attorney General of Louisiana has announced that his law firm is investigating mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson for potential violations of the company’s fiduciary duties to investors related to an alleged cover-up of evidence that its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder product is linked to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

“Former Attorney General of Louisiana, Charles C. Foti, Esq., a partner at the law firm of Kahn Swick & Foti, LLC (“KSF”), announces that KSF has commenced an investigation into Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”),” the firm said in a statement posted to its website. “The Company has been embroiled in significant litigation by over 11,000 consumers claiming that its iconic talc powder products contained asbestos that caused cancer.”

“KSF’s investigation is focusing on whether J&J’s officers and/or directors breached their fiduciary duties to its shareholders or otherwise violated state or federal laws,” the statement continued.

The announcement of the investigation is just the latest legal headache for J&J, with nearly every aspect of the consumer-goods, medical-device, and pharmaceutical conglomerate’s business under fire for allegedly allowing hazardous products to enter the marketplace. Collectively, the company faces tens of thousands of products liability lawsuits over talcum powder, surgical mesh, hip implants, and opioids, which are likely to cost the company billions of dollars to resolve.

For example, in a single July 2018 verdict, a St. Louis-based jury awarded 22 women or their estates a total of roughly $4.7 billion in damages on claims that J&J talcum powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. A settlement over metal-on-metal hip implants made by J&J subsidiary DePuy is expected to cost the company approximately $1 billion, as well.

J&J investors increasingly have voiced displeasure at the company’s handling of the various issues, which have taken their toll on share prices. Following media reports in mid-July that the US Department of Justice had opened a criminal fraud probe into J&J over allegations that the company misled the public and regulators, J&J shares lost 4% of their value, according to CNBC.

Sources:

Kahn Swick & Foti, LLC. (Accessed 20 July 2019). Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) Investigation

LaVito, A. (16 July 2019). Johnson & Johnson falls despite 42% profit spike amid talc, opioid litigation fears

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Announcing 42% Increase In Earnings, J&J Vows To Keep Fighting Talc-Cancer Claims

July 18, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

As consumer-goods, pharmaceutical, and medical-device mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson continues to wage multimillion-dollar legal battles on numerous fronts, from talc-cancer claims to surgical mesh to opioids, the company’s chief financial officer vowed during a conference call that J&J would continue to defend itself zealously over claims that its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The statement came as Johnson & Johnson announced a 42% increase in earnings per share on sales of $20.6 billion in the second quarter of 2019 alone.

Despite the 42% jump in profits, J&J shares fell more than 1% on concerns over the company’s multifaceted litigation concerns, which ultimately could end up costing the company billions.

According to J&J, the company earmarked $190 million during Q2 2019 to cover costs associated with mounting its legal defense against talc-cancer claims alone.

“As a CFO, I consider costs as a potential settlement opportunity, but our overarching strategy is to continue to defend ourselves for this product when the facts are so overwhelmingly on our side,” J&J CFO Joseph Wolk told analysts, referring to the more than 10,000 talc-cancer claims faced by J&J in US federal court alone, as quoted by CNBC.

Federal products liability lawsuits involving claims that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, cause cancer have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. That MDL now contains over 13,000 cases.

J&J CFO Wolk told analysts during the conference call that the company considered the “next major event” in talc-cancer litigation to be commencing on July 22. On that date, the judge overseeing the MDL will begin considering the admissibility of evidence, including expert testimony.

Sources:

Johnson & Johnson. (16 July 2019). Johnson & Johnson Reports 2019 Second Quarter Results. For Immediate Release. Johnson & Johnson Website

LaVito, A. (16 July 2019). Johnson & Johnson falls despite 42% profit spike amid talc, opioid litigation fears. CNBC

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Talc MDL: J&J, Plaintiffs Feud Over Meaning Of Calif. Appellate Decision

July 17, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a firmly worded brief filed July 15 as part of multidistrict litigation (MDL) over talc-cancer claims, consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson fired back at what it characterized as misrepresentations made by the plaintiffs’ steering committee in describing a recent California appellate court decision involving similar claims against J&J.

Meanwhile, new cases continue to be added to the MDL almost by the day, with the total number of cases having reached 10,060 as of July 16, according to a count of member cases conducted by TheLawFirm.com.

J&J’s scathing submission is in response to a filing made by the plaintiffs’ steering committee, which J&J says misrepresents several key aspects of the California appellate court ruling.

“In response to defendants’ simple transmittal email on Thursday, plaintiffs have submitted to the Court a substantive filing that grossly mischaracterizes the Echeverria appellate ruling,” the brief submitted by J&J lawyers states, referring to the recent California case. “Most egregiously, plaintiffs claim that ‘the California Appellate Court reversed the trial court opinion on general causation, an opinion that J&J relied heavily on in J&J’s Daubert Motion.” [Citation Omitted.] This statement is false in two respects.”

J&J then proceeds to argue that not only were plaintiffs wrong to characterize the appellate court as having reversed they trial court’s ruling on general causation (which, according to J&J, it affirmed) but also “plaintiffs’ contention that defendants’ briefing relied ‘heavily’ on Echeverria is demonstrably false” with J&J claiming it “merely noted” the case “in one sentence of their 100-page General Causation Daubert brief” (emphasis in original).

“To the extent defendants ‘relied heavily’ on anything, they relied on the consensus of the scientific community that talc has not been shown to cause ovarian cancer despite numerous studies on the topic,” J&J sneered in language barely seeking to conceal its attorneys’ displeasure.

While the MDL remains in its relatively early stages, the heated exchanges, which come across even in writing, give an indication of the tensions among the parties.

The MDL was created by order of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in 2016, centralizing federal products liability claims involving allegations that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause cancer after years of regular exposure.

Sources:

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Filed 15 July 2019). Defendants Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.’s Reply to Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee’s Response to Johnson & Johnson’s Submission of the Opinion of the California Court of Appeals Decision in Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson (JCCP NO. 4872). MDL Docket No. 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation.

United States District Court District of New Jersey. (Accessed 16 July 2019). Member Cases. MDL Docket No. 2738. In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Bloomberg: J&J Faces Federal Criminal Probe Over Talc-Cancer Denials

July 15, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. has been reviewing internal documents from consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson as part of a criminal investigation into allegations that the company lied about its knowledge of a connection between its talcum-powder products and cancer, Bloomberg reported July 12.

Bloomberg was first to report the criminal probe, which is taking place alongside a previously reported regulatory action looking into similar claims. Johnson & Johnson also faces upwards of 10,000 individual lawsuits alleging that long-term, regular use of J&J talc-based products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause cancer, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

While Johnson & Johnson has not disclosed publicly how much it has set aside to cover costs associated with talc-cancer claims, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, civil claims alone could end up costing J&J up to $15 billion. To date, juries have awarded plaintiffs over $5 billion in damages on talc-cancer claims.

The newly reported criminal investigation appears to be examining allegations of fraud, with the grand jury reviewing J&J’s internal documents for any contradiction with the company’s public statements regarding the presence of asbestos in its talc-based products.

“Since J&J is a public company, they are probably looking at whether their statements amounted to fraudulent statements to consumers and regulators,” former federal prosecutor Henry Klingeman told Bloomberg. “I’d also think they’d be looking at whether they violated securities-fraud laws.”

Johnson & Johnson continues to maintain adamantly in public statements and in court that its talcum powder does not, and never has, contained asbestos. However, discovery in previous civil cases unearthed documents dating back as far as the 1960s and 1970s suggesting the company’s scientists had, indeed, raised such concerns.

Despite news of the criminal investigation now being publicly reported, Johnson & Johnson issued a statement denying the situation had changed and maintaining the company line of denials.

“We have been fully cooperating with the previously disclosed DOJ investigation and will continue to do so,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg. “Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer, as supported by decades of independent criminal evidence.”

Source:

Feeley, J. (12 July 2019). J&J Denials of Asbestos in Baby Powder Spur Criminal Probe. Bloomberg

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: CA Appeals Court Orders New Trial Following $417m Talc-Cancer Verdict

July 12, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Affirming a lower court decision, on July 9, a California appellate panel ordered a new trial in the case of a woman who sued consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson claiming that the company’s talcum-powder products caused her to develop ovarian cancer. The original trial of the now-deceased plaintiff resulted in a $417 million jury verdict, including $347 million in punitive damages.

However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren E. Nelson later tossed the verdict, finding that the record did not support a finding of punitive damages and that the $417 million award was “plainly excessive.” Judge Nelson also granted J&J’s request for a new trial.

The three-judge panel for California’s Second District Court of Appeal agreed, finding that a reasonable jury could have decided the case either way given the “significant conflict” in evidence presented on the issue of whether use of talc-based products in the genital area can lead to ovarian cancer. The panel also found sufficient evidence to support a finding that Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. had failed to warn consumers of this risk,

“Here, there was substantial evidence that, if credited, allowed the jury to find that by 2007, a reasonable manufacturer would conclude there was facts showing genital talc use was likely to be dangerous or 'probably' dangerous," the panel wrote, according to Law360.

Attorneys for the lower court plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, said they would appeal the panel’s decision to the California Supreme Court.

Echeverria originally filed her claims in July 2016 after developing ovarian cancer in 2007. Following a four-week trial and two days of deliberations, a jury found in August 2017 that Echeverria’s cancer was caused by years of use of J&J products, awarding the $417 million verdict that later was overturned by the trial judge.

“We look forward to retrying the remaining piece of this case and again demonstrating to the jury that talc does not cause ovarian cancer,” a spokesperson for J&J told Law360.

Source:

Field, E. (10 July 2019). New Trial Upheld For J&J After $417M Talc Verdict. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Calling New Jury On Punitive Damages Issue Not A New Trial, Talc-Asbestos Judge Tells J&J

July 8, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On June 12, an Oakland, California-based jury found consumer-goods giants Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive liable for the terminal mesothelioma of plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, who alleged that she had developed the deadly and painful form of cancer following years of exposure to asbestos fibers she claimed were present in the companies’ talcum-powder products. While the jury awarded Schmitz roughly $12 million in compensatory damages, it could not reach agreement on whether J&J had acted with the malice necessary to justify punitive damages, and the judge presiding over the case declared that a new jury would be called to hear arguments and make a determination on the punitive damages issue.

Now, as the parties prepare to argue the question of punitive damages before a new jury, attorneys for the plaintiff Ms. Schmitz have accused new lawyers for Johnson & Johnson of attempting to re-litigate issues they say already were resolved by the court in the lead-up to the previous six-week trial, saying J&J improperly is seeking an additional “bite of the apple” on evidentiary decisions that already had been decided, according to a July 3 report by Law360.

Based on responses offered in court, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch appeared to side with attorneys for the plaintiff that the court’s prior rulings as to the admissibility of evidence would continue to apply during the phase of the trial devoted to the question of punitive damages. Judge Roesch also made it clear that this was not a new trial, but a continuation of the previous trial, with a new jury having been called to resolve the punitive damages issue.

“This isn't a second trial, it's a continued trial," Judge Roesch said, according to Law360.

With opening remarks set to begin July 8, the July 3 hearing was intended to establish evidentiary and procedural ground rules for the proceedings. While Judge Roesch insisted that he would not re-hear arguments about items admitted into evidence during the trial’s initial phase, he did say that he would individually review each piece of evidence to determine its relevance, if any, to the issue of punitive damages.

The judge has made clear that the issue of whether J&J talc-based products contained asbestos fibers that are responsible for the plaintiff’s mesothelioma is no longer a matter of debate in the case, as that issue had been decided by the previous jury, which found the defendant companies responsible.

In that vein, Judge Roesch suggested that he would severely restrict the scope of the testimony of the expert witnesses J&J has sought permission to call during the trial’s punitive damages phase.

“The scope of their testimony is going to be pretty limited," Judge Roesch said, according to Law360. "I'm not sure what they're going to be able to testify within the area of their expertise.”

Source:

Atkins, D. (3 July 2019). J&J's Kirkland Attys Are Rehashing Old Fights, Judge Told. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Investors Say Claims Over Alleged Talc-Asbestos Cover-Up Should Proceed

July 2, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Friday, June 28, attorneys representing a proposed class of Johnson & Johnson investors suing over allegations that the company artificially inflated stock prices by covering up evidence of asbestos in its talc-based products urged the court to reject J&J’s bid to have the case dismissed, asserting that they had successfully met the legal standards required in such cases.

“The [complaint] sets forth each alleged misrepresentation and omission, which of the defendants made each statement, the date of each statement and the reasons each statement was false and misleading,” a brief filed on behalf of the proposed class argued, according to Law360. “Nothing more is required. Notably, defendants fail to challenge many of the misstatements, conceding their falsity.”

J&J shareholder Frank Hall is named plaintiff in the proposed class action, which was filed in February 2018. In May, J&J filed a motion seeking to have the case dismissed before trial.

“The alleged class period misstatements amount to nothing more than defendants merely reiterating J&J’s long-held and well-supported position and rebutting baseless and damaging claims about the company’s products,” the motion read, as quoted in a May 6 report by Law360. “Accordingly, the company’s repeated rejection of the junk science that spawned this decades-old public allegation could not have ‘altered the total mix of information’ available to investors.”

While Johnson & Johnson and its talc suppliers have publicly maintained the line that J&J talc-based products, including its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder, do not and have never contained the hazardous substance asbestos, which is closely linked to the deadly cancer mesothelioma, a growing number of juries across the country have disagreed, finding J&J liable to the tune of billions of dollars.

In by far the largest J&J talc verdict to date, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based state-court jury found the company and its talc supplier liable for nearly $5 billion in the case of 22 women and their families who alleged that the women had developed either mesothelioma or ovarian cancer as a result of years of regular use of J&J talcum-powder products.

Still, Johnson & Johnson adamantly disputes the findings of these juries, continuing to refer to their being based on “junk science”.

Some of Johnson & Johnson’s own investors believe otherwise, saying the company selectively chose testing methods intended not to reveal the presence of asbestos.

“The allegations here go further than alleging mere data or results, as J&J itself recognized the asbestos contamination internally and purposely avoided ‘essential’ testing methods,” the shareholder’s argued in support of their motion to deny J&J’s request for dismissal, per Law360. The proposed class action is just one of many securities-related lawsuits J&J is facing over the talc-asbestos allegations in addition to government inquirers and thousands of products liability lawsuits filed by consumers who claim they have suffered direct physical harm as a result of alleged cover-up.

Sources:

Sinay, R. (1 July 2019). J&J Investors Fight To Keep Asbestos Stock-Drop Suit Alive. Law360

Sinay, R. (6 May 2019). J&J Says Investors’ Baby Powder Claims Already Disproven. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: New Research Shows That Talc Affects Ovarian Cancer Cells, Lending More Support To Talc-Cancer Claims

June 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

New research presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in Honolulu, Hawaii has shown that talc, largely considered by scientists to be an inert substance, causes inflammation in ovarian cancer cells, establishing an important new link between the key ingredient in talcum-powder products and the cancer that afflicts tens of thousands of American women, and causes more than ten thousand deaths, each year, according to a June 18 report by the publication Cancer Therapy Advisor.

After having become aware of the approximately 13,000 lawsuits that have been filed against the makers of talcum-powder products, primarily consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson, alleging that their products caused women to develop ovarian cancer, Wayne State University researcher Dr. Ghassan Saed, PhD, of the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Michigan, decided to examine more closely the existence of such a causal link.

Not only did Dr. Saed’s research reveal that talc caused inflammation in ovarian cancer cells, it also demonstrated similar reactions in healthy cells from the Fallopian tubes, where scientists suspect ovarian cancer may originate. The findings suggest a possible mechanism by which talc would cause ovarian cancer to develop.

In addition to Dr. Saed’s research, other studies discussed at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology conference also added to the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting a correlation between talc exposure and ovarian cancer.

“For example, the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study compared 584 African-American women with ovarian cancer to 745 healthy women and found that those who had reported using talc in the genital area were 44% more likely to have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” Cancer Therapy Advisor reported. “And another study came to a similar conclusion after questioning 2,041 women living in Massachusetts and New Hampshire who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer with a control group of 1,578 women without cancer.”

With juries across the United States already having awarded billions of dollars in damages over claims that Johnson & Johnson talc-based products, including the famous Johnson’s Baby Powder, caused the plaintiffs’ cancer, the findings presented at the annual meeting only add to the body of evidence suggesting that talc may not be as inert a substance as scientists once believed.

“This is the first in vitro study that shows a direct biological effect on what’s thought to be an inert substance on ovarian cancer cells and most importantly, normal cells coming from the fallopian tubes,” Dr. Saed said, according to Cancer Therapy Advisor.

For experts in the field, including Dr. Saed, the biggest takeaway from the new findings is that more research needs to be done. Next, Dr. Saed plans to move to animal studies, injecting talc directly into the reproductive systems of rats to study the effects. “Hopefully these next studies will confirm our findings and provide important information to share with the public to tell them to stop using talcum powder,” Dr. Saed told Cancer Therapy Advisor.

Sources:

Richards, S. (18 June 2019). Research Shows How Talc Powder May Change Ovarian Cancer Cells. Cancer Therapy Advisor

Schildkraut JM, Abbott SE, Alberg AJ, et al. (2016). Association between body powder use and ovarian cancer: The African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES). AACES website

National Cancer Institute. (Accessed 15 June 2019). Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 2018. National Cancer Institute website

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Judge Rules J&J Can’t Bring Up Co-Defendant’s Liability In Talc-Cancer Punitive Damages Trial

June 20, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

The judge presiding over the case of a woman who alleged that consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson had caused her to develop mesothelioma by concealing the presence of asbestos in its popular talcum-powder products has ruled that J&J will not be able to bring up the liability of codefendant Colgate-Palmolive or nonparty Avon Products, Inc. during a forthcoming trial over whether J&J should be held liable for punitive damages in the lawsuit, Law360 reported June 19.

Following a contentious six-week trial, on June 12, an Oakland, California-based jury returned a verdict finding J&J and Colgate liable for negligence, design defect, failure to warn, and concealment with regards to the presence of asbestos in the companies’ talcum-powder products, which the jury found had led to plaintiff Patricia Schmitz’s mesothelioma.

Jurors allocated 30% of the blame to Johnson & Johnson; 10% to J&J subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.; 40% to Colgate; and 20% to Avon, despite Avon’s not being a named defendant in the case. The verdict included compensatory damages of $2 million in economic damages and $10 million in noneconomic damages.

However, jurors were deadlocked on the issue of whether Johnson & Johnson had acted with the malice required to award the plaintiff punitive damages, and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has ordered a new trial to address that question alone.

On Wednesday, June 20, Judge Roesch ruled that Johnson & Johnson would not be allowed to raise the issue of other parties’ liability at the trial, which is scheduled to begin in July.

“Your acts after learning of the culpability fact [are at issue], and it doesn’t really matter what others were doing,” Judge Roesch told attorneys for J&J, according to Law360 . “Whether they’re selling poisonous French fries or robbing liquor stores, it’s not relevant.”

The trial has been calendared on an expedited basis due to the plaintiff’s ailing health. Her lawyers have said her doctors do not expect Ms. Schmitz to survive the summer.

Her case is just the latest instance of jurors finding Johnson & Johnson liable for a plaintiff’s cancer. However, Ms. Schmitz case is somewhat unique in that she sued both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive, with the vast majority of talc-cancer claims to date having been directed at J&J talc-based products alone. The success of Ms. Schmitz’s case may inspire more cases like it.

Sources:

Atkins, D. (19 June 2019). J&J Can’t Blame Colgate, Avon In Talc Punitive Damages Trial. Law360

Atkins, D. (18 June 2019). J&J Must Face Fast-Tracked Talc Trial Over Punitive Damages. Law360

Atkins, D. (12 June 2019). Calif. Jury Awards $12M In Talc Suit Against J&J, Colgate. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J To Face New Talc Trial On Issue Of Punitive Damages

June 19, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

When an Oakland, California-based jury found consumer-goods giants Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive responsible for a woman’s mesothelioma on June 12, it awarded the plaintiffs $12 million in compensatory damages. However, the jury failed to reach agreement on whether Johnson & Johnson had acted with the “malice, oppression, or fraud” necessary to warrant punitive damages.

Now, the judge who presided over the original trial has ordered a new, expedited trial on the issue of whether punitive damages are warranted against J&J. (The previous jury found punitive damages unwarranted against Colgate-Palmolive but were deadlocked on whether J&J should face such punishment.)

Opening remarks for the new trial have been scheduled for July 8.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, who presided over the original trial, denied J&J’s request to postpone the punitive-damages trial until after a pending appeal filed by J&J had concluded. Judge Roesch cited plaintiff Patricia Schmitz’s ailing health as a reason to avoid any delays. Schmitz’s doctors have said they do not expect her to survive the summer.

Schmitz and her husband sued J&J and Colgate-Palmolive alleging that years of exposure to the companies’ talcum-powder products had caused Schmitz to develop the particularly deadly and painful form of cancer known as mesothelioma. The plaintiffs pointed to evidence that the companies’ talc-based products contained asbestos, which is very closely correlated with mesothelioma.

Publicly, the companies have adamantly denied any claims that their talc-based products contain asbestos despite internal J&J documents dating back decades that suggest to the contrary.

Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she sued both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive on her talc-cancer claim, but, given her success, more are likely to follow. Johnson & Johnson has by far faced the vast majority of such claims to date, with juries across the country finding the company liable for plaintiffs’ ovarian cancer or mesothelioma and awarding millions of dollars in damages, even billions of dollars in one St.Louis-based trial featuring the claims of 22 women and their families.

In the Schmitz case, the jury allocated fault for the plaintiff’s illness as follows: 40% to Colgate-Palmolive, 30% to J&J, 10% to J&J subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., and 20% to non-party Avon Products Inc.

Following a contentious six-week trial, Judge Roesch minced no words in describing what lies ahead for the parties and the court. “I think the trial that we’re going to have is going to be unwieldy in many respects,” Judge Roesch said, according to Law360 . “I have no idea how long it’s going to take. I’m not comfortable expressing opinion about what evidence [the parties will be allowed] to show the jury. … But it’s difficult for me not to grant a new jury on whether or not punitive damages are going to be assessed or evaluated further.”

Sources:

Atkins, D. (18 June 2019). J&J Must Face Fast-Tracked Talc Trial On Punitive Damages. Law360

Atkins, D. (12 June 2019). Calif. Jury Awards $12M In Talc Suit Against J&J, Colgate. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Judge Rejects J&J Effort To Have Philly Talc-Cancer Trial Transferred To Federal Court

June 17, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In the latest rebuff to Johnson & Johnson’s strategy of having state-court talc-cancer claims removed to federal court by arguing that they are linked to the federal bankruptcy proceedings of J&J talc supplier Imerys America Inc., on June 13, a federal judge in Philadelphia remanded a lawsuit back to state court for trial, saying the federal court lacked jurisdiction.

US District Judge Mark Kearney rejected J&J’s arguments that the removal to federal court was warranted by Imerys’ alleged indemnification of the consumer-goods conglomerate, saying that the question of indemnity was far from a legal certainty and needed to be sorted out in separate litigation.

The lawsuit, brought by plaintiff Ellen Kleiner, who alleges that she developed ovarian cancer following years of regular exposure to J&J talcum-powder products, will now return to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for trial.

An attorney for Kleiner applauded the judge’s decision.

“Our client, like so many other women, has suffered devastating injury and harm as a result of using J&J’s cancer-causing baby powder,” said attorney Nancy Winkler, according to Law360. “After so many attempts by the defense to derail the trial of this case, we are pleased that our client will be able to move forward to trial before a jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and obtain justice.”

The strategy of using Imerys’ supposed indemnification of J&J as a basis for removing state-court claims to federal court has been employed by J&J in other cases, as well. J&J has cited the alleged indemnification as linking the cases to Imerys’ federal bankruptcy proceedings, which are taking place in Delaware.

While the judge rejected J&J’s bid to have that trial delayed, citing the plaintiffs’ ailing health, she did agree with the defendant company that it was up to the district court where the bankruptcy proceedings are taking place to determine whether it properly has jurisdiction over a case.

Imerys, a J&J co-defendant in thousands of talc-cancer claims, declared bankruptcy in February, citing among its reasons the costs of mounting its legal defense and paying out court-ordered damages.

The decision by the Philadelphia district court judge to remand the Kleiner case to state court, and J&J’s continuing efforts to have state-court talc-cancer cases removed to federal court, comes amidst a run of state-court victories for plaintiffs against the multi-billion-dollar behemoth.

On Wednesday, June 12, an Oakland, California-based jury found Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive liable for a woman’s mesothelioma, awarding $12 million in compensatory damages. That verdict came on the heels of a staggering $325 million verdict returned by a New York state-court jury in May and a $29.5M verdict returned by another Oakland jury in March.

Federal talc-cancer products liability claims against J&J have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, the same district as the Imerys bankruptcy.

Sources:

Fair, M. (13 June 2019). J&J Loses Bid To Keep Talc Cacner Case Out Of Philly. Law360

Atkins, D. (12 June 2019). Calif. Jury Awards $12M In Talc Suit Against J&J, Colgate. Law360

Field, E. (31 May 2019). J&J Hit With $300M Punitive Damages Verdict in NY Talc Trial. Law360

Siegal, D. and Salvatore, C. (13 March 2019). J&J Hit With $29.5M Verdict In Latest Talc Trial. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict Update: California Jury Says J&J, Colgate Must Pay $12M Over Talc-Mesothelioma Claim

June 11, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Following a trial that has lasted more than seven weeks, an Oakland, California-based jury has found consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive liable for mesothelioma the plaintiff claims she developed following years of using the defendants’ talcum-powder products. As part of its verdict, the jury awarded the woman and her husband $12 million in compensatory damages but, unlike verdicts in similar cases, did not include punitive damages.

The case involved plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, 61, who sued the defendant companies alleging that their talcum-powder products contained asbestos fibers, which, after decades of regular exposure, caused her to develop the painful and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Schmitz’s doctors have said they do not expect her to live through the summer. Schmitz’s husband also is a plaintiff in the case.

In its verdict, the jury found J&J and Colgate-Palmolive acted negligently and were liable for concealment, failure to warn, and a design defect. The jury could not reach agreement on the plaintiffs’ claim of intentional misrepresentation involving Johnson & Johnson, which was based on the company’s advertising its talcum-powder products for years as “pure” while internal documents showed the company was aware that the talc used in those products contained asbestos fibers.

The Oakland-based state-court jury allocated responsibility among the defendants as follows: Johnson and Johnson 30%; Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 10%; Colgate 40%; Avon Products Inc. 20%. Avon Products was determined to be one-fifth liable for Schmitz’s condition without being named as a defendant in the case.

With both sides having lodged complaints numerous times throughout the trial, and with J&J’s track record of appealing verdicts against it, the jury’s findings are likely to be challenged. Still, it is the latest plaintiff victory in what has been a back-and-forth legal struggle between plaintiffs and defendants, largely Johnson & Johnson, over claims that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Plaintiffs suing Johnson & Johnson have had particular success in state court, with several nine-figure verdicts and even one ten-figure verdict having been awarded by state-court juries in the past year. In May, a state-court jury in New York found J&J and its talc supplier liable for a woman’s cancer, awarding approximately $25 million in compensatory damages and a staggering $300 million in punitive damages. Last year, a New Jersey jury awarded a man and his wife $117 million on talc-mesothelioma claims. And, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury award nearly $5 billion to 22 women and their families who had alleged that J&J talc products had caused the women to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Federal talc-cancer products liability claims in the US have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she sued both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive. The vast majority of talc-cancer cases to date have been brought against J&J, but Schmitz’s success in this victory may inspire more claims against Colgate-Palmolive.

Source:

Atkins, D. (12 June 2019). Calif. Jury Awards $12M In Talc Suit Against J&J, Colgate. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict Update: California Jury Says J&J, Colgate Must Pay $12M Over Talc-Mesothelioma Claim

June 11, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Following a trial that has lasted more than seven weeks, an Oakland, California-based jury has found consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive liable for mesothelioma the plaintiff claims she developed following years of using the defendants’ talcum-powder products. As part of its verdict, the jury awarded the woman and her husband $12 million in compensatory damages but, unlike verdicts in similar cases, did not include punitive damages.

The case involved plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, 61, who sued the defendant companies alleging that their talcum-powder products contained asbestos fibers, which, after decades of regular exposure, caused her to develop the painful and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Schmitz’s doctors have said they do not expect her to live through the summer. Schmitz’s husband also is a plaintiff in the case.

In its verdict, the jury found J&J and Colgate-Palmolive acted negligently and were liable for concealment, failure to warn, and a design defect. The jury could not reach agreement on the plaintiffs’ claim of intentional misrepresentation involving Johnson & Johnson, which was based on the company’s advertising its talcum-powder products for years as “pure” while internal documents showed the company was aware that the talc used in those products contained asbestos fibers.

The Oakland-based state-court jury allocated responsibility among the defendants as follows: Johnson and Johnson 30%; Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 10%; Colgate 40%; Avon Products Inc. 20%. Avon Products was determined to be one-fifth liable for Schmitz’s condition without being named as a defendant in the case.

With both sides having lodged complaints numerous times throughout the trial, and with J&J’s track record of appealing verdicts against it, the jury’s findings are likely to be challenged. Still, it is the latest plaintiff victory in what has been a back-and-forth legal struggle between plaintiffs and defendants, largely Johnson & Johnson, over claims that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Plaintiffs suing Johnson & Johnson have had particular success in state court, with several nine-figure verdicts and even one ten-figure verdict having been awarded by state-court juries in the past year. In May, a state-court jury in New York found J&J and its talc supplier liable for a woman’s cancer, awarding approximately $25 million in compensatory damages and a staggering $300 million in punitive damages. Last year, a New Jersey jury awarded a man and his wife $117 million on talc-mesothelioma claims. And, in July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury award nearly $5 billion to 22 women and their families who had alleged that J&J talc products had caused the women to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Federal talc-cancer products liability claims in the US have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she sued both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive. The vast majority of talc-cancer cases to date have been brought against J&J, but Schmitz’s success in this victory may inspire more claims against Colgate-Palmolive.

Source:

Atkins, D. (12 June 2019). Calif. Jury Awards $12M In Talc Suit Against J&J, Colgate. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Florida Judge Rejects J&J Attempt To Postpone Talc-Cancer Trial During Talc Supplier’s Bankruptcy

June 10, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Friday, June 7, a federal judge in Florida rejected a bid by consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to postpone indefinitely the case of a woman alleging she developed ovarian cancer because of her years of use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. J&J had sought to delay the lawsuit while its talc-supplier, Imerys America, Inc., undergoes bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware.

Weighing the relative hardship such a delay would impose on the parties, U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez-Covington found that the requested postponement would impose an unreasonable burden on plaintiff Patricia Matthey while placing virtually none on multinational conglomerate J&J.

“Such a postponement is particularly problematic here where Matthey is in ill health and there is legitimate concern that she will not live to see her day in court if the case is stayed,” Judge Covington said, according to Law360.

Matthey originally sued Johnson & Johnson, Imerys, and Publix Super Markets, Inc. in Florida state court, alleging that years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her to develop mesothelioma. J&J later succeeded in having the case removed to federal court, but the plaintiff continues to try to have the case remanded back to state court, where an April 2020 trial date has been set and pretrial discovery already has begun.

Judge Hernandez-Covington used this as an additional basis for rejecting J&J’s argument that the case should be postponed to conserve judicial resources, with the judge saying she was prepared to make a decision “in a timely fashion” on the plaintiff’s request for remand to state court, Law360 reported.

The case is one of thousands nationwide to allege that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products caused the plaintiff to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. Federal talc-cancer products liability claims have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

To date, plaintiffs have had mixed success in bringing talc-cancer lawsuits against J&J, but plaintiffs have achieved a number of sizeable trial wins, including a landmark verdict in July 2018 in which a St. Louis-based jury awarded 22 women and their families nearly $5 billion over allegations that J&J talc-based products had caused the women to develop cancer.

Source:

Hale, N. (7 June 2019). J&J Talc Case Can Go Ahead In Fla. While Move To Del. Mulled. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Atty For Talc-Cancer Plaintiff Seeks Sanctions Against J&J Lawyer Over Closing Remarks

June 5, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a break from closing remarks during the trial of a woman suing consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive over allegations that their talcum-powder products caused her to develop mesothelioma, an attorney for the plaintiffs argued to the judge that statements made by opposing counsel during his closing statements warranted sanctions by the court, Law360 reported June 4.

Attorney Denyse Clancy, representing plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, 61, and her husband, said that, numerous times during closing statements delivered this week, J&J lawyer Alexander Calfo explicitly violated the judge’s pretrial orders to keep certain topics off limits. Among other matters, Clancy accused Calfo of misleading the jury as to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) role in overseeing consumer talc products.

“It’s an affront to the bar and an affront to this courtroom,” Clancy, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said, per Law360. “This has gotten to the point of outrageousness.”

The question of whether the FDA has in the past or does presently exercise regulatory authority over talcum-powder products such as the ones at issue in the case led to a heated exchange between Judge Frank Roesch and J&J attorney Calfo. Accused of improperly stating during closing remarks that the FDA does exercise such authority, even though the judge previously had ruled the topic inadmissible, Calfo defended himself by arguing that the judge had allowed a jury instruction to the same effect.

According to an account published by Law360, Judge Roesch responded by questioning Calfo intensely on the issue, finally getting Calfo to admit that he did not know whether the FDA had regulated talc in the past.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Clancy argued that sanctions are warranted against Calfo for additional reasons, as well. For example, Clancy accused Calfo of repeatedly diminishing the reputation of the court in the eyes of jurors by urging them to distinguish between what goes on in the courtroom from what goes on in “the real world” and by telling jurors that the court had prevented the defense from presenting certain supposedly exculpatory documents.

While Judge Roesch declined to make a ruling on the matter of sanctions at the time of the oral arguments, he said he would take the matter under consideration once a formal written motion had been filed.

The kerfuffle came in the midst of closing arguments in the six-week-long trial of the plaintiff Schmitz and her husband, who claim that Schmitz developed the particularly deadly and painful form of cancer known as mesothelioma following decades of regular use of the defendants’ talcum-powder products.

While thousands of lawsuits have been filed across the country alleging that talc-based products sold by Johnson & Johnson have caused plaintiffs to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she has sued both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive and because Schmitz suffers from a more rare form of mesothelioma that afflicts the lining of her stomach, in addition to the lung-based mesothelioma more frequently involved in recent talc-mesothelioma claims.

The Oakland, California-based jury will begin deliberations once closing remarks have concluded.

Source:

Atkins, D. (4 June 2019). King & Spalding Atty Faces Sanctions Bid As Talc Trial Wraps. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Jury Hears Closing Remarks In Oakland, Calif. Talc-Asbestos Trial

June 4, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Monday, June 3, an Oakland, California-based jury heard closing arguments in a trial featuring the claims of a woman who alleges that consumer-goods giants Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive caused her to develop mesothelioma by concealing for decades the presence of asbestos fibers in their popular talcum-powder products.

During his closing statement, attorney Joseph Satterley, representing the plaintiff, reiterated what has been a central theme of the trial: the plaintiff’s contention that, rather than alerting consumers and addressing the problem transparently, Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive chose to conceal internally evidence of asbestos fibers in their talc-based products.

Meanwhile, Satterley pointed out, J&J was cynically marketing its talcum powders to the public as “pure.”

“They knew ‘pure’ was wrong, but they did it for over 20 years,” Satterley told jurors, according to Law360, arguing that the description of the product, which essentially is pulverized rock, as “pure” forms the basis for the plaintiff’s intentional misrepresentation claim against J&J.

Elsewhere, Satterley pointed out the contradictory positions taken by counsel for Johnson & Johnson at trial. Attorneys for the defendant company had argued both that their client’s product was safe, yet also argued for limited culpability because the plaintiff claimed to have used J&J talcum products for only two years, while she says she used Colgate-Palmolive talcum powders for decades.

“If it’s a safe product, why are they trying to minimize [her exposure] to two years?” Satterley asked rhetorically, per Law360.

Patricia Schmitz, 61, and her husband sued Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive after she developed mesothelioma following decades of regular use of talcum-powder products sold by the defendant companies. Their lawsuit is one of thousands filed across the United States alleging that talcum-powder products caused the plaintiff to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, with the vast majority of such cases having been brought against J&J.

Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she chose to sue both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive. Additionally, while most talc-mesothelioma cases have involved plaintiffs with pleural mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the lungs, Ms. Schmitz also has been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the stomach. Experts testifying for the defendant companies at trial sought to play down the link between asbestos exposure and pericardial mesothelioma.

Publicly, both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive remain adamant that their talc-based products are safe and do not, and have never, contained asbestos fibers.

In the end, the lawyers for the defense urged the jury to take their emotions out of the decision.

“Put sympathy aside,” Alexander Calfo, representing J&J, urged jurors, according to Law360. “Please don’t be emotional. Don’t get mad. You are to treat a corporation just the same as an individual and every one of you agreed that you would.”

Closing arguments continued June 4, with the jury set to begin deliberations at the conclusion of those statements. Attorneys for the plaintiff have urged jurors to award tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Source:

Atkins, D. (3 June 2019). J&J, Colgate Created ‘Severe Health Hazard.’ Talc Jury Told. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: NY Jury Says J&J Must Pay $300M In Punitive Damages Over Talc-Mesothelioma Claim

June 1, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

When a New York state court jury found consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson liable for a woman’s mesothelioma on May 21, in addition to ordering the company to pay her and her husband $25 million in compensatory damages, it also concluded that punitive damages were warranted in the case, though the amount was yet to be determined.

On May 31, the punitive damages were announced, with the sum itself delivering a resounding statement about the jury’s conclusions as to J&J’s culpability in the case. The total: $300 million in punitive damages, making for a total verdict of $325 million.

“With this verdict, yet another jury has rejected J&J’s misleading claims that its talc was free of asbestos,” Jerome Block, and attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement quoted in part by Law360 . “The internal J&J documents that the jury saw once more laid bare the shocking truth of decades of cover-up, deception, and concealment by J&J of the asbestos found in talc baby powder.”

The massive monetary award may amount to merely a symbolic victory, however, as Johnson & Johnson announced its confidence in having the verdict overturned on appeal. Despite numerous jury verdicts against J&J on talc-cancer claims across the country, according to Law360, the company has succeeded in having overturned every talc-cancer verdict it has chosen to appeal.

“The trial suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors—one of the most egregious being the demonstrably false testimony from the plaintiff’s central expert, which prompted us to move for mistrial,” J&J said in a statement. “As the jury was prevented from being made aware of the falsities in his testimony, we believe these errors will warrant a reversal on appeal.”

“Decades of tests by independent experts and academic institutions repeatedly confirm that Johnson’s baby powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer,” a spokeswoman for J&J added, per Law360 [https://www.law360.com/articles/1164891/j-j-hit-with-300m-punitive-damages-verdict-in-ny-talc-trial].

The case involved plaintiffs Donna Olson and her husband Robert Olson, who sued J&J alleging that decades of regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based powders had caused Mrs. Olson to develop the especially deadly and painful form of cancer known as mesothelioma. The Olson’s claim that J&J knew that for years that its talc contained asbestos fibers, which are extremely closely correlated with mesothelioma, but instead of alerting the public and regulators, the company instead chose to conceal the dangers posed to its customers.

Thousands of federal talc-cancer claims against J&J have been centralized in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, and the company also faces hundreds if not thousands of state court claims like that brought by the Olsons.

Source:

Field, E. (31 May 2019). J&J Hit With $300M Punitive Damages Verdict In NY Talc Trial. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Mineralogist Testifying For J&J Says No Asbestos In Talc As Trial Winds Down

May 31, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On May 28, defendants and consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive called to the stand what is expected to be the last witness in a trial that has been ongoing since late April involving claims that a woman developed mesothelioma from asbestos fibers found in popular talcum-powder products. Following the testimony of this final witness, the parties are expected to begin closing arguments.

The witness, Mineralogist Matthew Sanchez, aimed to discredit experts who had testified for the plaintiffs by arguing that they had erred in identifying certain fibers as asbestos, saying instead that the mines used to source talc for products made by J&J and Colgate-Palmolive were asbestos-free.

Microscopy expert William Longo and electron microscopy expert Lee Poye both had testified that they had found asbestos fibers and bundles in talc samples from mines used by J&J and Colgate-Palmolive in the production of their talcum-powder products, including the popular Johnson’s Baby Powder.

The defense expert Sanchez conceded that, while he had not identified asbestos in the talc samples he had analyzed, he had only tested talc from a mine in Italy and not from other mines from which the companies had sourced talc. However, Sanchez said that he believed geological conditions had not been right for asbestos to form at these other sites, located in Montana and North Carolina.

On cross examination, an attorney for 61-year-old plaintiff Patricia Schmitz and her husband attacked Sanchez’s credibility by forcing him to admit that his employer, the RJ Lee Group, essentially existed to provide expert testimony and other consulting services for defendants in talc-cancer litigation, with this line of business having generated nearly $2 million in revenue for the company in 2018 alone.

Sanchez, who also admitted that he had begun working for the RJ Lee Group directly after receiving his doctorate, said that he earns approximately $100,000 per trial as an expert witness and had taken home nearly half a million dollars last year. He further said that Colgate-Palmolive had contracted with him to act as an expert witness in roughly 50 cases.

The instant case involves claims brought by Schmitz and her husband, who allege that Schmitz’s mesothelioma was caused by years of exposure to asbestos fibers present in consumer talcum-powder products sold by J&J and Colgate-Palmolive. While thousands of talc-cancer lawsuits have been filed against J&J across the country, the Oakland, California-based case is somewhat unique in that it names both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive as defendants.

Plaintiffs have had mixed results in suing companies, mostly Johnson & Johnson, over claims that their talcum-powder products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. In July 2018, a St. Louis jury ordered J&J and its talc supplier to pay nearly $5 billion in damages to 22 women or their estates over allegations that the company’s products had given the plaintiffs cancer. However, the company subsequently enjoyed a string of court victories on similar claims, as it appeared to adopt a strategy of resolving more challenging cases via private settlement agreements while attempting to defeat weaker claims at trial.

Following Sanchez’s testimony, the parties are expected to deliver their closing statements before the case goes to the jury.

Source:

Atkins, D. (29 May 2019). J&J, Colgate Palmolive Expert Defends Talc Products As Trial Nears End. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Loses Bid To Have $29.5M Talc Verdict Tossed

May 28, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

“She knows she’s going to die, and she also knows it’s going to be a particularly brutal death,” Alameda Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman said before an Oakland, California court on Friday, May 24, explaining why he did not find a jury’s $29.5 million verdict against consumer-good conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to be excessive, according to Law360. “I think that there’s more than enough evidence to support a substantial verdict in this case.”

J&J had filed a motion for a new trial following an Oakland-based jury’s March 13 verdict finding the company liable for the mesothelioma of plaintiff Teresa A. Leavitt, who alleged that she developed the particularly painful and deadly form of cancer following years of exposure to asbestos fibers in J&J’s popular Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Attorneys for J&J had argued for a new trial on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to present sufficient evidence demonstrating the presence of asbestos fibers in the Johnson’s Baby Powder used by Leavitt. J&J also contested the removal of defendant Imerys America Inc., talc supplier to J&J, from the case. Imerys was dropped as a defendant after filing for bankruptcy protection in February.

However, attorneys for J&J argued that the court erred in failing to have the jury assign a percentage of responsibility to Imerys. The jury verdict found J&J 78% liable, J&J Consumer Inc. 20% liable, and Cyprus Mines 2% liable.

At the May 24 hearing, Judge Seligman rejected J&J’s bid for a new trial and declined to adjust the jury’s monetary verdict, finding ample evidence to support the figure of nearly $30 million, which consisted of $291,000 for past medical expenses, $1 million for future medical expenses, $1.2 million for loss of earnings, $7 million for past physical pain and mental suffering, $15 million for future physical pain and mental suffering, and $5 million to Leavitt’s husband for loss of future companionship.

Representatives for Leavitt argued that the verdict and award were both reasonable and warranted.

“It’s not a runaway jury who awarded punitive damages,” said attorney Denyse Clancy on behalf of the plaintiff.

Ultimately, Judge Seligman agreed, saying that the testimony delivered by Leavitt and her husband was some of the most emotional he had experienced from the bench, calling it “exceedingly detailed and very ugly testimony,” per Law360.

Source:

Atkins, D. (24 May 2019). J&J Can’t Get New Trial After $29.5M Talc Verdict. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: One Win, One $25M Loss For J&J In Two Talc Trial Verdicts Delivered On Same Day

May 23, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Tuesday, May 21, state court juries in New York and South Carolina both returned verdicts in trials featuring allegations that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products had caused the plaintiffs to develop cancer, with the verdicts yielding mixed results for the consumer-goods conglomerate. In New York, the jury found for the plaintiff, ordering J&J to pay $25 million, while the South Carolina jury found that the defendant company was not responsible for the plaintiff’s mesothelioma.

The $25 million award in the New York trial does not include punitive damages, which the jury found to be warranted but which remain to be determined. The punitive damages likely will add millions more to the total.

That case was brought by 66-year-old Donna Olson and her husband in October 2017. The couple alleged that Donna had developed mesothelioma following decades of regular use of J&J talc-based products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower scented powders. The Olsons claim that Donna used the products from 1953 through 2015, a span of over 60 years.

As in similar cases, the Olsons presented evidence that the talc used in J&J talcum-powder products has been found to contain asbestos fibers, which are strongly associated with mesothelioma. J&J has contested the testimony of the Olsons’ chief expert witness, Dr. William Longo, making an appeal of the verdict all but certain.

“This trial suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors—one of the most egregious being the demonstrably false testimony from the plaintiff’s central expert, which prompted us to move for mistrial,” J&J said in a statement quoted in part by Law360. “As the jury was prevented from being made aware of the falsities of his testimony, we believe these errors will warrant a reversal on appeal.”

While the New York-based jury found a connection between the plaintiff’s talcum-powder use and her mesothelioma, the South Carolina jury failed to find similar culpability on the part of J&J, declaring the company not liable on all fronts in the case of 49-year-old Beth-Anee v

Johnson. Unlike most mesothelioma patients who have blamed their cancer on J&J talc products, Johnson suffers from the less common peritoneal mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the stomach rather than the lining of the lungs.

Johnson & Johnson pointed to the availability of evidence as to the veracity of the plaintiffs’ experts as the reason for the discrepancy in the two verdicts.

“Unlike a similar case in New York where the jury did not hear critical information regarding false testimony by the plaintiff’s central testing expert, this South Carolina jury heard that information and unanimously concluded that Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos and was not the cause of the plaintiff’s disease,” J&J said in statement, per Law360.

Federal products liability claims brought by plaintiffs alleging that J&J talcum-powder products gave them cancer have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Source:

Siegal, D. (21 May 2019). J&J Hit With $25M NY Talc Verdict, But Wins Trial In SC. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Judge Denies Defense’s Mistrial Motion In Talc-Mesothelioma Case

May 22, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

A California judge overseeing an Oakland, California-based trial involving a plaintiff suing consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive over allegations that the companies’ talcum-powder products contained asbestos that caused the plaintiff’s mesothelioma has denied a motion for mistrial submitted by the defendant companies. The ruling, which came down on Monday, May 20, rejected J&J and Colgate-Palmolive’s arguments that the judge had erred in questioning witnesses for the defense and in allowing the plaintiff to present inadmissible evidence relating to ovarian cancer.

Troy McMahan, representing both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive, argued before the court that Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch had engaged in improper conduct that justified a mistrial. Among other things, McMahan accused Judge Roesch of questioning the defense’s witnesses in a way that could negatively influence jurors’ opinions of the witnesses’ veracity.

“The jury looks to you like the way a child looks to a parent,” the defense attorney McMahan told Judge Roesch, according to Law360.

In response, Judge Roesch defended his actions.

“I will do that to any witness who gets up and does not want to answer the question,” Judge Roesch responded to the accusations, per Law360.

An attorney for plaintiff Patricia Schmitz countered that Judge Roesch had engaged in similar questioning with regards to witnesses for the plaintiff, rejecting the defense’s characterization of unequal treatment.

“The court has fairly and evenhandedly treated each witness,” said Denyse Clancy, representing the plaintiff, further arguing that the defense had forfeited its ability to contest the treatment of its witnesses by failing to make contemporaneous objections, saying defense attorneys had never requested a sidebar or curative jury instruction from the court to address such matters.

The case involves claims brought by Schmitz, who alleges that decades of exposure to talcum-powder products sold by the two companies caused her to develop the particularly painful and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, and especially pleural mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the lungs, is very closely linked with exposure to asbestos fibers, which plaintiffs have argued has been found in the talc used in products sold by J&J and Colgate-Palmolive.

Publicly, the companies have remained adamant that their talcum-powder products, including J&J’s venerable Johnson’s Baby Powder, do not contain asbestos. However, juries across the country have found to the contrary, ordering J&J and its talc supplier to pay out billions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs claiming they developed mesothelioma or ovarian cancer after years of exposure to the products. Most notably, in the summer of 2018, a St. Louis-based jury found in favor of 22 women and their estates who had accused J&J talc products of causing their cancer, ordering J&J and its talc supplier to pay almost $5 billion in damages.

Source:

Atkins, D. (20 May 2019). J&J, Colgate Lose Mistrial Bid Over Curious Judge. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: New Talc-Mesothelioma Trial Opens In South Carolina State Court

May 15, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

The decision last week by a Delaware federal judge not to grant Johnson & Johnson’s request to have over 2,400 cases transferred to that venue already is having ramifications for the consumer-goods and medical-device conglomerate, with the latest trial over talc-mesothelioma claims commencing on Monday, May 14 in South Carolina state court. The case is just one of the thousands that Johnson & Johnson had sought to have transferred to Delaware district court, where its talc supplier Imerys America Inc. is going through bankruptcy proceedings.

The South Carolina case involves claims brought by 49-year-old Beth-Anee Johnson and her husband John W. Greenley Jr., who allege that decades of exposure to asbestos fibers in Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her to develop mesothelioma.

“This case is about a company that needlessly endangered the public for nearly forty years, this is about a company that hid the dangers in its product for decades,” attorney Christopher Swett, representing the plaintiffs, told the court during opening statements, according to Law360.

Although thousands of lawsuits have been brought against Johnson & Johnson over claims that the company’s popular talcum-powder products caused consumers to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, the case is somewhat unique in that the plaintiff Ms. Johnson has been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which afflicts the lining of the stomach rather than the lining of the lungs, as does the more common form of mesothelioma.

Still, the plaintiffs’ attorney Swett maintained that even peritoneal mesothelioma can be caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, which then migrate to other parts of the body where they can afflict other internal organs.

It wasn’t always clear that the plaintiffs would get their day in South Carolina state court. After Johnson originally filed her claim in April 2018, Johnson & Johnson had the case removed to South Carolina federal court. The defendant company then tried to have the case, and thousands like it, transferred to a federal court in Delaware, but a Delaware district judge rejected that attempt, and the case was remanded to South Carolina state court on May 3, setting the stage for the trial that opened Monday.

Johnson & Johnson faces over ten thousand lawsuits in the United States alone over claims that its popular talcum-powder products caused users to develop cancer. Thousands of federal lawsuits have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey, while thousands more remain active in state courts across the country.

Source:

Siegal, D. (13 May 2019). J&J Hid Asbestos In Talc For Years, Latest Jury Told In SC. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Judge Denies J&J Bid To Have Thousands Of Talc Claims Transferred To Delaware

May 13, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Thursday, May 9, a federal district court judge denied consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson’s motion to have thousands of talc-related lawsuits consolidated in Delaware federal court, where the company’s talc supplier Imerys America, Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection.

J&J had sought to avail itself of a procedural rule that allows nondebtors to transfer claims to the district where the bankruptcy of an entity with close financial ties is pending. Imerys was spun off of Johnson & Johnson in 1989 and since that time, along with its affiliated entities, has supplied 100% of the talc used in J&J talcum-powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, according to J&J.

In recent years, Johnson & Johnson and Imerys have faced thousands of lawsuits from consumers alleging that decades of exposure to J&J talc-based products caused them to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. In a February filing, Imerys pointed to the cost of defending these lawsuits and paying out court-ordered damages as key factors in its decision to seek bankruptcy protection.

According to Imerys, the talc-mining company presently faces lawsuits filed by nearly 15,000 individual plaintiffs. Collectively, J&J and Imerys already have been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in damages over these claims, including a verdict of almost $5 billion awarded to 22 women and their estates by a St. Louis-based jury in summer 2018.

In the May 9 order, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika denied that J&J had met the high standard to justify transferring approximately 2,400 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits to the Delaware district court overseeing Imerys’ bankruptcy proceedings. Judge Noreika cited as justification for her decision the fact that J&J has not established that it is in financial distress, while the company itself is responsible for many of the delays from which it purportedly has sought relief.

“J&J has been a defendant in the underlying state court litigation for years,” Judge Noreika stated for the court, according to Law360, rebutting J&J’s arguments for urgency by presenting evidence of the company’s own delay tactics. “J&J is responsible for the multiplicity and timing of removal and the ensuing remand motions.”

Federal products liability claims brought against J&J over its talcum-powder products have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey. J&J had sought consolidation of thousands of state court claims in Delaware federal court.

Source:

Field, E. (9 May 2019). J&J Can’t Transfer 2,400 Talc Suits To Del. Fed. Court. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Talc Plaintiff Gives Emotional Testimony About Her Mesothelioma

May 7, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

An Oakland, California-based jury heard emotional testimony May 6 from a plaintiff suing consumer-goods conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive, claiming that years of using the companies’ talcum-powder products caused her to develop the particularly painful and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

“I’ve always been a very strong woman, so I’m constantly surprised what I can’t do from one day to the next,” plaintiff Patricia Schmitz told the court through tears, according to Law360. “Last week was the first time where…I said, it’s just going to be easier to die. But three days later I said I didn’t mean it anymore, so I’m going to keep on fighting.”

Schmitz also testified about her decades of talcum-powder use, saying she used Johnson’s Baby Powder as a child before migrating to Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet when she got older. She further stated that had the products’ packaging contained warnings that inhaling talcum powder could lead to mesothelioma, she never would have used them.

Earlier in the trial, an attorney for the plaintiff told the court that Schmitz is not expected to live through the summer.

While Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits over allegations that its talcum-powder products have caused consumers to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, Schmitz’s case is somewhat unique in that she has sued both J&J and Colgate-Palmolive. As a result, the companies’ have adopted a legal strategy of seeking to distinguish themselves from the other defendant in arguing against their own culpability.

For example, lawyers for J&J have argued that Schmitz used Johnson’s Baby Powder for only a few years compared to the decades of use of the Colgate-Palmolive product. For their part, attorneys for Colgate-Palmolive have pointed out that their client did not source its talc from the Vermont mine that has been associated with the presence of asbestos fibers, exposure to which is extremely highly correlated with mesothelioma, while J&J has used the mine for much of its talc over a number of years.

Plaintiffs have had mixed success in suing over allegations that decades of exposure to talcum powder caused them to develop cancer. In July 2018, a St. Louis-based jury awarded 22 women or their estates nearly $5 billion over claims that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. However, plaintiffs also have lost several more recent cases, with J&J appearing to adopt a strategy of entering into confidential settlements on stronger claims while trying to defeat weaker claims in court.

On May 7, the ongoing trial entered its third week.

Source:

Siegal, T. (6 May 2019). Teary Plaintiff Tells Jury About Painful Cancer In J&J Talc Trial. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc Supplier, Trustee Spar In Court Over Future Claims Representative

April 30, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier and the trustee overseeing its bankruptcy case continue to spar in court over the choice of future claims representative, who will have the role of representing in the bankruptcy proceedings the interests of future litigants against the debtor. While J&J talc supplier Imerys America Inc. continues to push for its original choice for the job, labeling its candidate “eminently qualified”, the bankruptcy trustee has called for more openness and transparency in the selection process, Law360 has reported.

“The way [the selection process] is being done now is problematic,” argued United States trustee’s representative Richard L. Schepacarter, according to Law360. “The process needs to be open.”

Despite Schepacarter’s assertions that the court should give the debtor’s preference no weight in its selection of future claims representative, Imerys has countered that its choice for the job, James L. Patton Jr., is one of the most qualified individuals available.

“It’s hard to find an individual in our industry who has more mass tort restructuring experience than Jim Patton,” Jeffrey E. Bjork, attorney for Imerys, argued before the court on Friday, April 26, per Law360.

Whoever ends up in the role of future claims representative, that individual will be crucial to ensuring that the rights of future litigants, who may not yet be aware that they have been harmed by Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products containing Imerys talc, are appropriately represented in the bankruptcy proceeding.

When Imerys Talc America filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, it cited as a main reason costs associated with mounting its legal defense and paying out legal claims over J&J talc products.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys in the United States alleging that J&J’s talcum-powder products, including the popular Johnson’s Baby Powder, have caused plaintiffs to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. In the summer of 2018, a St. Louis-based jury slammed the companies with a combined verdict of nearly $5 billion in the case of 22 women who had alleged that the talcum-powder products gave them cancer.

The U.S. trustee Shepacarter has raised concerns that, while Patton, Imerys’ pick for future claims rep, has experience in similar cases, some of the distributions he has overseen later were subject to fraud allegations. Imerys’ counsel brushed these concerns aside.

“The U.S. trustee is really trying to argue that if you have too much experience it somehow creates a conflict,” Bjork said before the court, per Law360. “Courts have found that to be an attribute. Future claimants are entitled to have an advocate that will advocate on their behalf with experience.”

After hearing arguments from both sides, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein announced she would make a ruling on the matter sometime during the week of April 29.

Source:

Sullivan, V. (26 April 2019). J&J Talc Supplier Argues For Its Future Claims Rep Choice. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Expert In Talc Trial Says Normal For Asbestos Exposure To Cause Cancer Decades Later

April 25, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

An expert testifying for the plaintiff at a trial in Oakland, California on April 24 told jurors that it would not be abnormal for the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos fibers in talcum-powder products in her teens to have resulted in mesothelioma decades later, saying that the cancer typically takes 30 or 40 years to develop following asbestos exposure, Law360 reported.

The testimony took place in the trial of Patricia Schmitz, who has sued both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive alleging that the companies’ talcum-powder products caused her to develop the particularly deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Schmitz, who is 61, is expected to have just months to live.

Dr. Allan H. Smith of the University of California, Berkeley testified that he found that Ms. Schmitz’s description of heavily using talc-based products in her early teens was consistent with her having developed mesothelioma much later in life.

“I was struck by that,” Dr. Smith said in court, according to Law360. “[Ms. Schmitz’s daily use of talc products at age 13] to me said, ‘Wow this is in the exact latency period that’s appropriate, and she’s extensively using talc.’ I was struck by the description. I thought, ‘Wow, this makes sense.’”

On cross examination by attorneys for the defendant companies, Dr. Smith conceded that his analysis was based on the assumption that the talcum-powder products used by Ms. Schmitz contained talc and that he has testified as an expert witness in other talc-mesothelioma cases.

The case is somewhat unique in that the plaintiff has sued both Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive, saying that she used J&J talcum powder for a couple of years before switching to Colgate-Palmolive for more than three decades. To date, Johnson & Johnson has faced the vast majority of the growing number of talc-cancer lawsuits.

Across the United States, thousands of plaintiffs have sued Johnson & Johnson alleging that its talcum-powder products, including the popular Johnson’s Baby Powder, have caused them to develop mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. While those cases that have gone to trial have yielded mixed results, there have been a number of notable verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, including a nearly $5 billion verdict awarded to 22 female plaintiffs by a St. Louis-based jury in July 2018.

Sources:

Siegal, D. (22 April 2019). J&J and Colgate Face Latest Talc Trial Together In Calif. Law360

Atkins, D. (24 April 2019). J&J, Colgate’s Talc Cancer Link ‘Makes Sense,’ Jury Told. Law360

Siegal, D. (23 April 2019). Colgate Tells Jury In Talc Cancer Trial Its Mines Asbstos-Free. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Agrees To Indemnify Bausch On Shower To Shower Talc Claims

April 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

When Bausch Health Cos. Inc. predecessor Valeant Pharmaceuticals International purchased the Shower to Shower brand of talcum-powder products from Johnson & Johnson in 2012, some of what it was buying lay hidden from view.

In the years since, J&J talc-based products have become the subject of thousands of lawsuits across the United States brought by plaintiffs alleging that the popular personal hygiene products, including Shower to Shower, had given them cancer.

On April 17, the two companies resolved the issue of liability over Shower to Shower claims, with Johnson & Johnson agreeing to fully indemnify Bausch against personal injury and products liability lawsuits filed over Shower to Shower products.

Bausch has been named in 165 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs claiming that years of regular exposure to talcum-powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, according to Law360.

In what Johnson & Johnson sought to characterize as a mere clarification of the prior sale agreement, the conglomerate agreed to cover Shower to Shower claims, including regulatory actions, arising from any acts that took place prior to the September 2012 sale. For suits to be covered under the indemnification agreement, they also must be filed no later than March 2020.

Source:

Field, E. (23 April 2019). J&J, Bausch Reach Talc Litigation Deal. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J To Judge: Thousands Of State and Federal Talc Lawsuits Should Be Transferred To Delaware Court

April 21, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Thursday, April 18, consumer-goods conglomerate Johnson & Johnson filed a motion requesting that over 2,000 active state and federal personal injury cases related to its talcum-powder products be transferred to the Delaware federal court overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings of its talc supplier, Law360 reported.

In the filing, lawyers for J&J argued that the move, which potentially would impact approximately 2,400 cases nationwide, was warranted because Imerys Talc operated as Johnson & Johnson’s only talc supplier and is directly involved in the matters at issue in the lawsuits. They further asserted that consolidation would assure continuity of outcomes and conserve judicial resources.

“Because the claims raise common questions of fact, law, and science, the current nationwide scheme of disparate discovery processes is duplicative, unpredictable, and wasteful,” Johnson & Johnson’s motion stated, according to Law360. “Fixing venue in this court will streamline the adjudication of claims integrally related to, indeed, the impetus for, the debtor’s bankruptcy.”

Imerys cited the cost of mounting its legal defense and paying out damages as a reason for its seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year. The estimated 2,400 state and federal talc cases covered by Johnson & Johnson’s request for consolidation do not include the roughly 11,000 federal lawsuits that have been centralized as multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits in the United States alone over allegations that its popular talcum-powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause ovarian cancer in women and contain asbestos fibers that can give users mesothelioma, a particularly deadly and painful form of lung cancer.

To date, J&J and Imerys collectively have been ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages over the claims, including a verdict of nearly $5 billion reached by a Saint Louis-based jury in the summer of 2018 in the case of 22 female plaintiffs or their heirs who claimed that J&J talc products had given them (or their decedent) cancer.

Source:

Sullivan, V. (19 April 2019). J&J Says 2,400 Talc Suits Belong In Del. Federal Court. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Reuters: J&J Marketed Baby Powder To African-Americans And Overweight Women Despite Known Health Concerns

April 10, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

“[Johnson & Johnson Baby] Powder is still considered a relevant product among AA [African-American] consumers,” read a 2006 Johnson & Johnson marketing presentation, uncovered during an in-depth investigation by Reuters. “This could be an opportunity.”

A follow-up to a previous report showing that Johnson & Johnson executives were aware for decades that the talc used in the company’s talcum-powder products at times contained asbestos fibers, the Reuters investigation, published April 9, covers in great detail J&J’s efforts to combat declining sales of the company’s “#1 Asset” by aggressively marketing the product to highly specific demographics, including African-Americans and overweight women.

The marketing campaigns even targeted potential customers located in particular climates, with the same 2006 presentation recommending the company focus on “under developed geographical areas with hot weather, and higher AA [African-American] populations.”

While marketing to certain demographics, even highly specific ones, is hardly a novel concept, particularly in today’s age of micro-targeted online advertising, Reuters points out that these internal company deliberations took place even as outside experts were issuing repeated warnings about the potential health risks of talc-based cosmetic products.

For example, also in 2006, the same year as the J&J marketing presentation, the World Health Organization (WHO) started listing cosmetic talc products, like Johnson’s Baby Powder, as “possibly carcinogenic,” according to Reuters. At least one of Johnson & Johnson’s talc suppliers, Luzenac America Inc., began posting a warning about the WHO classification on its talc shipments to customers.

But, despite the known health concerns, the ideas proposed in the J&J marketing presentation did not die in the conference room, with Reuters laying out in striking detail how, over the course of the years that followed, J&J put the plan into effect via a costly, sophisticated, and highly targeted marketing campaign.

“[Johnson & Johnson] distributed Baby Powder samples through churches and beauty salons in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, ran digital and print promotions with weight-loss and wellness company Weight Watchers and launched a $300,000 radio advertising campaign in a half-dozen markets aiming to reach ‘curvy Southern women 18-49 skewing African American,’” Reuters reported.

The success of these marketing efforts sadly is reflected in the demographics of the approximately 13,000 plaintiffs that have sued Johnson & Johnson claiming the company’s talc-based products caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, with those plaintiffs tending to be older, female, overweight, and minority.

To date, talc-cancer lawsuits against J&J have yielded mixed results, with Johnson & Johnson enjoying a string of recent trial victories on talc-asbestos claims after being hit with a $4.69 billion verdict by a St. Louis jury in the summer of 2018. That verdict presently is under appeal.

Despite recently settling on the same day three different cases in three different jurisdictions at three different phases of trial, J&J continues to maintain adamantly, at least in public, that its talc-based products do not contain asbestos fibers and do not cause cancer.

Reuters was not the first institution to take note of J&J’s practice of targeting minority consumers. In 2014, the attorney general of Mississippi filed in state court a lawsuit against the consumer-goods and pharmaceutical giant, alleging J&J utilized a “racially targeted strategy” while failing to adequately warn consumers about the health risks associated with its talcum-powder products. That case is still pending and is expected to go to trial sometime in 2019.

Source:

Kirkham, C. and Girion, L. (9 April 2019). Special Report: As Baby Powder concerns mounted, J&J focused marketing on minority, overweight women. Reuters

Girion, L. (14 December 2018). Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Reuters

Talcum Powder Asbestos Lawsuit Update: CA Jury Finds J&J Not Liable On Talc-Asbestos Claims

April 6, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Following a trial lasting over a month, a jury in Southern California took less than one day of deliberations to find Johnson & Johnson not liable on claims that its talcum-powder products contain asbestos fibers, which allegedly had caused the plaintiff’s mesothelioma.

The verdict, released Friday, April 5, marks the latest in a string of court victories for J&J against lawsuits alleging that asbestos fibers in the company’s popular talcum-powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, have cause the plaintiffs’ to develop the especially deadly form of lung cancer known as pleural mesothelioma. However, the company also recently settled three such claims on a single day, suggesting a legal strategy that involves fighting weaker cases in court while settling stronger ones via confidential agreements that do not involve an admission of culpability.

“This conclusion is aligned to the decades of clinical evidence and scientific studies by medical experts around the world that support the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement quoted in part by Law360.

Attorneys for plaintiff Robert Blinkinsop, who had alleged that he contracted the deadly cancer mesothelioma via asbestos fibers contained in J&J talc products, expressed dismay and frustration over the jury’s verdict.

“On behalf of the Blinkinsop family we are shocked and disappointed with the findings of the jury,” attorney Mark Bratt commented, per Law360, adding, “The most troubling part of the jury decision is that we found the same types of asbestos historically in J&J’s baby powder in my client’s lung and lymph node tissue. There was no other credible explanation for how those asbestos fibers got there.”

Bratt left open the possibility of challenging the verdict on appeal.

“We will review the case file and make a decision on an appeal in the near future,” he said.

Meanwhile, J&J highlighted its recent run of court victories on talc-asbestos claims.

“Of the last 10 mesothelioma cases, there has been only one plaintiff win, which was in a trial that suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors and will be appealed,” Johnson & Johnson said, per Law360. “This track record underscores that, when confronted with the evidence, most jurors see that there is only one set of facts in these cases, and 50 years of independent, non-litigation-driven scientific evaluations repeatedly confirm that Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos.”

The “one plaintiff win” referenced by J&J was a March 2019 verdict in which an Oakland, California-based jury found Johnson & Johnson liable for plaintiff Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, awarding her nearly $30 million in damages.

Johnson & Johnson’s statement also fails to reference the three cases recently settled via confidential agreements, all announced on the same day, March 24. Though apparently settled simultaneously, the cases were widely varied both geographically and in terms of their place in the legal process.

The three newly resolved cases included a lawsuit in Oklahoma that was settled as the jury was in the process of deliberating; one in California for which trial had just begun; and a New York case that was approximately a month away from starting.

Expert observers have pointed to legal and public-relations strategy underlying J&J’s pattern of confidential settlements interspersed with in-court victories.

“They scrutinize these cases very closely on an individual basis—what happened at trial, the sense they got from the jury—and are they willing to settle individual cases right now but go forward with other cases,” law professor Jean Eggen of Widener University Delaware Law School told Law360 in late March, shortly after the three settlements were announced.

Elizabeth Burch of the University of Georgia School of Law agreed, telling Law360, “J&J can always strategically pull cases from the trial stream as we’re seeing them do now. If they’re wise, they’re settling the cases they’re worried about losing, the ones that seem strongest.”

Sources:

Siegal, D. (5 April 2019). Calif. Jury Finds No Asbestos In J&J Talc. Law360

Siegal, D. (29 March 2019). J&J’s 3-Deal Day Signals A Shift In Legal War Over Talc. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Settlement Update: Observers Note Shift In J&J Strategy With Recent Talc-Cancer Settlements

March 31, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

After entering into three different settlement agreements on a single day on March 27, observers have noted a shift in the legal strategy of consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson, which previously had fought vehemently against any accusations that its talcum-powder products cause cancer. The three agreements, each involving women who claim to have developed mesothelioma due to the presence of asbestos in J&J talcum-powder products, resolved lawsuits that were at various stages of the legal process, including a trial already in jury deliberations, Law360 reported March 29.

While Johnson & Johnson adamantly denies any shift in its legal strategy, dismissing these cases as “one-off” situations, the settlements undeniably mark a change for a company that had long refused to settle either in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion, showing that billions of dollars in highly publicized verdicts linking J&J talcum-powder products with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma may finally have had an impact on the company’s approach.

“I tend to think of [Johnson & Johnson] the way I thought of big tobacco companies back in the day, before they settled anything,” Jean Eggen, a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told Law360. “That by hook or by crook they were going to fight every single case, every single individual, and they won most of the cases. But when they started losing some of the cases, they were more willing to open up and settle.”

Johnson & Johnson publicly denies any change in its legal strategy as it pertains to defending talc-cancer claims.

“We do not have any organized program to settle Johnson’s Baby Powder cases, nor are we planning a settlement program,” J&J said in a statement. “Rather, we will continue to vigorously defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the courtroom.”

Despite the public denials, experts expect that Johnson & Johnson is being strategic about which cases to settle before they reach a jury verdict, trying to avoid negative media coverage like that surrounding a $4.69 billion verdict awarded to 22 women in 2018 by a St. Louis jury that found J&J talc products had given the women ovarian cancer.

“J&J can always strategically pull cases from the trial stream as we’re seeing them do now,” commented Elizabeth Burch, a professor of mass torts at the University of Georgia School of Law, per Law360. “If they’re wise they’re settling the cases they’re worried about losing, the ones that seem strongest.”

This would seem to explain why the three settlement agreements were announced on the same day that a New Jersey jury reached a verdict in J&J’s favor, rejecting a plaintiff’s claims that asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder had caused him to develop mesothelioma.

The three cases settled March 27 include a California trial that had just started, an Oklahoma trial that already had entered jury deliberations, and a New York trial not scheduled to begin for another month.

Sources:

Siegal, D. (29 March 2019). J&J’s 3-Deal Day Signals A Shift In Legal War Over Talc. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Settlement Update: Two J&J Talc-Mesothelioma Trials End As Settlements Reached

March 28, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On March 27, fresh on the heels of a jury verdict in its favor in New Jersey, consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson unexpectedly reached confidential settlement agreements to end two other talc-mesothelioma trials, according to Law360. One of the trials, based in California, had been just getting underway while the other, in Oklahoma, was in the middle of jury deliberations when the settlement was reached.

Jessica Dean, an attorney representing an Oklahoma woman who sued J&J alleging that asbestos in its popular Johnson’s Baby Powder had caused her to develop mesothelioma, expressed satisfaction with the terms of the settlement.

“They paid our number,” she said of defendant Johnson & Johnson, per Law360. “We’re super happy, and they made sure it was confidential.”

J&J pushed back on the notion that the two settlement agreements were indicative of a broader trend or change in strategy.

“The decision to resolve any particular case in no way changes our overall position that our talc is safe, is asbestos free and does not cause cancer, as recognized just today in a unanimous jury verdict in New Jersey,” the company said in a statement quoted by Law360. “We do not have an organized program to settle Johnson’s Baby Powder cases, nor are we planning a settlement program. Rather, we will continue to vigorously defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the courtroom.”

The settlements were announced the same day as a jury in New Jersey sided with J&J over a 58-year-old plaintiff who had sued the company on similar claims, alleging that asbestos fibers in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-powder products had caused him to develop mesothelioma, a particularly painful and deadly form of cancer.

Following the verdict in its favor, J&J proclaimed its recent successes in talc-cancer trials and pronounced that all verdicts against the company on talc-related claims had been overturned on appeal. The company did not make mention of the two settlement agreements it was simultaneously entering over nearly identical claims.

Sources:

Siegal, D. (27 March 2019). J&J Settles 2 Asbestos-In-Talc Cases Mid-Trial. Law360

Siegal, D. (27 March 2019). J&J Wins Another Asbestos-In-Talc Trial In NJ. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: NJ Jury Rejects Talc Mesothelioma Claims, Finds For J&J

March 27, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On Wednesday, March 27, a New Jersey-based jury found Johnson & Johnson not liable on claims that its talcum-powder products contained asbestos, which was alleged to have caused the plaintiff’s mesothelioma. According to Law360, jurors required under an hour of deliberations to reach their verdict.

In closing arguments a day earlier, an attorney for J&J had emphasized that the defendant, an immigrant from Peru, had lived in close proximity to an asbestos cement factory as a child, a fact the defense says the plaintiff’s attorneys overlooked in rushing to greenlight the case, with the plaintiff’s occupational health expert, Dr. Jacqueline Moline, having concluded Johnson’s Baby Powder was the culprit before conducting a full review.

“[Dr. Moline] did what [the plaintiff’s attorneys] knew she would do: She rubber-stamped the lawsuit, and said it was baby powder and baby powder only,” attorney Allison Brown argued for the defense in her closing remarks, per Law360.

In a statement released following the verdict, Johnson & Johnson commended the outcome, citing a string of recent trial wins on similar claims and saying that every talc-cancer verdict against it has been overturned on appeal.


“This is the third verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson in recent months, and of the last 9 mesothelioma cases, three ruled in favor of J&J, and five resulted in mistrials,” the statement read, per Law360. “This trial track record underscores the decades of clinical evidence and scientific studies by medical experts around the world [that] support the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

An attorney for The Lanier Law Firm, which has represented a number of plaintiffs in lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over cancer allegedly caused by the company’s talcum-powder products, including in the instant case, issued its own statement expressing disappointment in the jury’s verdict “particularly in light of the overwhelming scientific and documentary evidence supporting the claims of the Rimondi family that J&J talcum-based baby powder is laced with asbestos.”

Source:

Siegal, D. (27 March 2019). BREAKING: J&J Wins Another Asbestos-In-Talc Trial In NJ. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc Suppliers Face Around 700 Active Talcum Powder Related Lawsuits

March 26, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In a snapshot of the overall scope of litigation facing Johnson & Johnson over its talcum-powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, Law360 reported March 25 that J&J’s talc suppliers presently face around 700 active lawsuits, with claims against talc-mining company Imerys America Inc. having been stayed due to Imerys’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Overall, Imerys has been sued by over 14,650 individual plaintiffs.

On the same day, Imerys agreed to provisionally relinquish control of its liability insurance to help cover talc-related claims against its former owner, though the agreement will not go into effect until a lawsuit that will determine third-parties’ ability to access the insurance policies’ proceeds has been resolved.

Imerys and its former owners Cyprus Mines Corp. and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., which also have been named as co-defendants to Johnson & Johnson in some talc-related lawsuits, have been involved in a dispute over control of decades-old insurance policies that potentially could yield hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts.

With Imerys already having filed for bankruptcy protection and attorneys for the Cyprus companies having argued that Cyprus needs access to the policies to help fund its legal costs related to third-party tort claimants, the outcome of this legal battle could have real-world ramifications for the ability of J&J talc victims to receive the full compensation that juries say they deserve.

Compared to Johnson & Johnson, juries have apportioned talc suppliers only a small percentage of culpability in lawsuits featuring plaintiffs who claim that J&J talcum-powder products gave them cancer. For example, in early March, a jury assigned a Cyprus-related company two percent liability on a total verdict of $29.5 million, as compared to 98% liability for Johnson & Johnson entities. 



However, such costs can quickly add up when facing hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits.

When Imerys filed for bankruptcy protection in mid-February, it reported over $100 million in financial liabilities, the vast majority of which it said were over talcum-powder-related claims..

Sources:

Montgomery, J. (25 March 2019). J&J Talc Source Lifts Del. Ch. 11 Stay For Past Owner. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc Victims Join Talc Suppliers’ Battle Over Access To Insurance Proceeds

March 25, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Plaintiffs who have sued Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys America Inc. claiming that J&J talcum-powder products gave them cancer have joined a legal dispute between Imerys and another talc-mining company over the ownership of decades-old insurance policies, arguing to a bankruptcy court in Delaware that Cyprus Mines Corp. has not demonstrated its right to the policy payouts, which could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

With Imerys having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and its many creditors now vying to be paid out of limited resources, the issue of who owns the insurance policies potentially could impact whether or not J&J talc victims are paid the damages owed them by Imerys.

On March 19, a committee formed to represent the interests of talc tort claimants in the bankruptcy proceeding filed an objection to efforts by Cyprus Mines Corp. and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. to access the proceeds of the insurance policies, of which the Cyprus entities claim to be entitled to at least a portion. The committee argued that Cyprus has failed to demonstrate a basis for its right to access the funds or for the adequate protection order it has sought.

In February, Cyprus Mines Corp. and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., former owners of Imerys, filed an emergency motion seeking access to the insurance proceeds to help fund its legal defense and other obligations related to ongoing Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder litigation. Like Imerys, Cyprus also has been a talc supplier to J&J and has been named as a co-defendant in a number of talc lawsuits.

Cyprus asserts that Imerys had taken on liability for the talc cancer claims and that Cyprus was blindsided by Imerys’ filing for bankruptcy protection.

“Prior to the [Chapter 11] petition date, [Imerys] was defending and indemnifying Cyprus in all asbestos lawsuits because [Imerys], not Cyprus, long ago assumed all historical talc-related liabilities,” Cyprus argued in a court filing, according to Law360.

However, the committee representing talc victims countered that Cyprus is “an unaffiliated, solvent defendant that has not and cannot demonstrate any entitlement to protection,” per Law360. It further argued that the order sought by Cyprus was unnecessary because all litigation against Imerys had been stayed following its Chapter 11 filing, meaning the insurance proceeds sought by Cyprus were not in danger of immediate depletion.

The issue of policy control dates back to Cyprus’ former ownership of Imerys. Cyprus argues that it has retained ownership of the policies, while Imerys says it assumed ownership per a 1992 settlement agreement.

A hearing on the issue of insurance policy ownership is scheduled for March 27.

Source:

Krebs, R. (19 March 2019). J&J Talc Supplier Tort Claimants Fight Insurance Fund Bid. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc Suppliers Battle Over Insurance Proceeds With Potential Ramifications For Talc Cancer Victims

March 16, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

In what might otherwise be dismissed as an arcane legal fight among various business entities over the ownership of decades-old insurance policies, several mining companies that have supplied talc to Johnson & Johnson for use in its talcum-powder products are battling it out in bankruptcy court, with hundreds of millions of dollars and the ability to pay talc-cancer victims potentially on the line. 

The dispute has arisen as part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings undertaken by Imerys America Inc., long-time talc supplier for Johnson & Johnson and J&J’s co-defendant in numerous lawsuits claiming that Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products caused plaintiffs to develop either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. Imerys filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, citing an inability to meet its financial liabilities, including the billions of dollars in damages that Imerys and J&J have been ordered to pay over talc-cancer claims. 

To meet the company’s outstanding financial obligations, including payments to talc-cancer victims, Imerys says it is relying in large part on payouts from insurance policies it claims to have held dating back several decades, the proceeds from which potentially could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to court filings.

But now two other mining entities have stepped in to prevent the payout to Imerys, saying that they are the legal owners of the policies in question, Law360 reported. The outcome could have serious ramifications for Imerys’ ability to pay out the damages juries across the country have said the company owes its victims.

Cyprus Mines Corp. and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. have sought emergency access to the insurance proceeds through the bankruptcy court, a move that was blocked by the presiding judge pending further proceedings on the issue.

Cyprus Mines Corp. also has been a J&J talc-supplier and co-defendant, with a jury in Oakland, California finding on March 13 that the company was 2% liable in a $29.5 million verdict in favor of a plaintiff who claimed to have developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos fibers alleged to be contained in J&J talcum-powder products.

Imerys has claimed that it took ownership of the insurance policies in question as a result of a 1992 settlement agreement. Both Cyprus entities have disputed the Imerys account before the court. 

Unfortunately, as with other high-profile corporate bankruptcies such as that of PG&E, the privately-owned California utility giant that potentially owes billions in wildfire-related claims, it is the victims of the companies’ malfeasance who stand to be re-victimized by the bankruptcy process, as these once-wealthy companies claim that they now lack the means to pay the financial penalties imposed on them by the courts for their wrongdoing. 

Sources:

Krebs, R. (14 March 2019). Insurers Fight J&J Talc Co.'s Insurance Pay Plan, Claim Rep. Law360

Siegal, D. and Salvatore, C. (13 March 2019). J&J Hit With $29.5M Verdict In Latest Talc Trial. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: CA Jury Orders J&J To Pay $29.5m Over Talc Asbestos Claim

March 14, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

On March 13, an Oakland, California-based state court jury became the latest to hold consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson and one of its talc suppliers liable for a plaintiff’s cancer, ordering the companies collectively to pay a woman and her partner a total of $29.5 million in damages over allegations that the presence of asbestos fibers in the companies’ talc-based products caused her to develop mesothelioma, Law360 reported.

The trial featured claims brought by plaintiff Theresa E. Leavitt against J&J and its talc supplier Cypress Mines Corp. Leavitt accused the companies of concealing the presence of the dangerous carcinogen asbestos in their talcum powder, saying that her exposure to asbestos through her use of Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her to develop the particularly deadly and painful form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma. 

Leavitt is the latest plaintiff to prevail on claims that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products caused her to develop cancer, with juries having ordered the defendant company to pay out billions of dollars in damages. In addition to claims that J&J’s talc-based products contain hazardous asbestos fibers that are highly correlated with the development of mesothelioma, women also have successfully sued the company alleging that use of talcum powder on their genital areas caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

According to Law360, the nearly $30 million in damages included past medical expenses ($291,000), future medical expenses ($1 million), lost earnings ($1.2 million), past physical pain and mental suffering ($7 million), and future pain and mental suffering ($15 million). The damages also included compensation to her partner for past loss of love and companionship ($2 million) as well as future loss of love and companionship ($3 million).

Source: 

Siegal, D. & Salvatore, C. (13 March 2019). J&J Hit With $29.5M Verdict In Latest Talc Trial. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Researcher Confirms Talc-Cancer Connection To Lawmakers

March 13, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

A researcher testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee confirmed to lawmakers that dozens of studies have confirmed that women who use talcum-powder products on their genital areas face a statistically significant increased likelihood of developing ovarian cancer, according to Law360. The testimony reiterates what numerous juries have concluded in trials across the United States in which plaintiffs have alleged that their use of talcum-powder products manufactured and sold by consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson caused them to develop cancer.

Speaking before the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, Dr. Anne McTiernan, presently a researcher at the University of Washington, said that an analysis of approximately 40 separate studies shows that women who have used talc-based products on their genital areas had a 22 to 31 percent greater chance of developing cancer as compared to women who never have used such products. With 4 in 10 women reporting to have used talcum-powder products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder, on their genital area, this increased cancer risk potentially impacts tens of millions of women in the United States alone.

“Evidence suggests that these associations [between talc exposure and cancer risk] hold across diverse race and ethnic groups,” Dr. McTiernan, who also has presented information in multidistrict litigation (MDL) over talcum-powder products, told the lawmakers, per Law360. “These combined analyses also show increasing exposure to these products were also associated with increasing risk of ovarian cancer.”

The testimony comes just weeks after Johnson & Johnson disclosed that it had received subpoenas from both the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding claims that its talcum-powder products have for years contained the dangerous carcinogen asbestos and that the company made efforts to conceal this information from the public.

Johnson & Johnson already has been subject to billions of dollars in jury verdicts over talc-related claims.

Source:

Field, E. (12 March 2019). Talc Use Increases Risk Of Ovarian Cancer, Lawmakers Told. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: New J&J Talc Trial Features Same Tragic Narrative, Highlights Importance of MDL, Class Action

March 5, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Over the first several days of a trial pitting a plaintiff dying of mesothelioma against multi-billion-dollar conglomerate Johnson & Johnson, attorneys for either side present to a New Jersey jury two highly incompatible narratives about the company’s role in causing the plaintiff’s cancer.

The plaintiff, represented by attorneys from The Lanier Law Firm, presents to the jury internal company documents dating back as far as the late 1950s purporting to show that the company was aware of the presence of the dangerous carcinogen asbestos in its talcum-powder products but chose to conceal the issue from regulators, investors, and an unwitting public rather than deal with it forthrightly in a manner that might threaten the profits flowing from one of the company’s most lucrative cash cows.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson, through legal counsel from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, holds steadfast to a counter narrative that its talcum-powder products are safe as can be and have never caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer, despite numerous jury verdicts across the country finding to the contrary.

This tragic yet, sadly, all too familiar refrain is playing out once again in a New Jersey courtroom, in a jury trial that began in late February 2019. For those having followed earlier trials, there are some striking similarities, according to multiple reports from Law360.

In the instant case, plaintiff Ricardo Rimondi, who his attorney says once worked for the Peruvian state police but fled the country in 1992 due to the risk of terrorist attacks, alleges that he developed mesothelioma after years of using Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products. His attorney has said Rimondi’s doctor gives him less than two years to live.

In opening statements on February 25, attorney Monica A. Cooper of The Lanier Firm, representing the plaintiff, directly accused Johnson & Johnson of rigging asbestos-related tests and submitting data to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that was at best incomplete and perhaps fraudulent, Law360 reported.

Cooper did not mince words when it came to naming Johnson & Johnson’s motives.

“The motive was money,” she told the jury, per Law360. Keeping with the hard line of absolute denials Johnson & Johnson has maintained since accusations initially arose years ago, attorneys for the defendant company argued that plaintiffs were relying on junk science and a misreading of internal documents and reports to further a scheme motivated by greed, not a quest for truth.

“Baby powder does not cause mesothelioma,” an attorney for the defense stated unequivocally.

These multiple trials featuring the same defendants, nearly identical facts, and similarly situated plaintiffs not only highlight the tragically high number of victims who allege that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products gave them cancer. They also underscore the importance of class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation (MDL) in helping victims obtain justice against wealthy, powerful defendants by allowing them and their attorneys to pool resources, particularly where the same documents, witnesses, and core legal arguments will be presented at trial after trial.

In multidistrict litigation (MDL), for example, there is a joint discovery process for determining evidentiary matters that will apply across all cases, which oftentimes number in the thousands. Not only does this allow otherwise disadvantaged plaintiffs and their attorneys to bring cases they otherwise may not have the resources to mount, particularly against well-represented defendants with deep pockets, it also conserves scarce judicial resources and saves taxpayer money.

However, well-healed defendants (and their well-paid attorneys) oftentimes fight against consolidation of cases, thinking it easier to fend off plaintiffs one-by-one than as a group, hoping to win a war of attrition where they cannot win in court on the law and the facts.

Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest updates on the legal fallout relating to Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products.

Sources:

J&J Rep Pressed on Internal Tests In Cancer Trial. Law360

J&J Knew Talc Had Cancer-Causing Asbestos, NJ Jury Told. Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: J&J Talc Supplier Declares Bankruptcy Over Talcum Powder Lawsuits

February 24, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

Imerys Talc America, a major supplier of talc used by Johnson & Johnson in its talcum powder products, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection February 13, according to a report by Reuters.

As a codefendant with Johnson & Johnson in numerous recent lawsuits alleging that J&J talcum powder products cause ovarian cancer in women and contain the dangerous substance asbestos, Imerys Talc America, along with J&J, recently had been found liable by multiple juries that collectively ordered the companies to pay their victims billions of dollars in damages.

Although representatives for Imerys Talc America continue to publicly deny culpability, its French parent company claims it sought bankruptcy protection for its US-based unit because it lacked the financial resources to mount an effective defense against the approximately 15,000 lawsuits it continues to face over the alleged dangers of its talc. “After carefully evaluating all possible options, we determined that pursuing Chapter 11 protection is the best course of action to address our historic talc-related liabilities and position the filing companies for continued growth,” a statement issued by Imerys Talc America read, according to Reuters.

Johnson & Johnson and Imerys both have maintained adamantly that the ovarian cancer and asbestos claims are without merit, though, in at least one case, Imerys did part ways legally with its codefendant, entering into a confidential settlement agreement prior to a 2018 trial involving 22 women who claimed that years of regular talcum powder use had caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Following trial, a Missouri-based jury sided with the plaintiffs against the remaining defendant, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.69 billion in damages.

Several earlier lawsuits and a previous Reuters report from December 2018 had revealed internal J&J documents showing that the company was aware that its talcum powder had tested positive for asbestos over the course of several decades spanning from the 1970s all the way into the early 2000s but had failed to report these findings to either government regulators or consumers.

The large number of active lawsuits cited by Imerys as a reason for its bankruptcy filing suggests that the multi-billion-dollar verdicts handed down thus far may only be the beginning.

Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest legal developments involving Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.

Source:
Bellon, T. and Hals, T. (13 February 2019). Johnson & Johnson supplier seeks bankruptcy over talc lawsuits. Reuters

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Witnesses Differ Over J&J Talc Danger in CA Asbestos Trial

February 7, 2019
Author: Daniel Gala

An expert for the plaintiffs asserted that consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson had known for years about dangers presented by its talcum-power-based products, while a witness for the defense countered with claims that the purity of J&J talc was “second to none” over several days of a trial that is quickly approaching its second month, according to multiple reports by Law360.

The Oakland, California-based trial, which began January 7, involves claims by a now-deceased plaintiff and her husband that J&J talcum powder contains asbestos, which caused her to develop the particularly deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. The link between asbestos and mesothelioma of the lungs is extremely well established, but experts have sparred over whether talcum powder contains asbestos in sufficient quantities to cause the disease.

Epidemiologist Dr. David S. Egilman, testifying January 24 on behalf of the plaintiffs, told the jury that knowledge of the dangers associated with J&J talc products dates back as far as the 1920s, yet the company for decades has sought to conceal rather than remedy the problems. Dr. Egilman testified that the inhalation of talc has long been known to cause talcosis, a disease of the lungs, as well as being connected to asphyxiation in babies. Attorneys for the defense objected numerous times to aspects of Dr. Egilman’s testimony, but were largely overruled, according to reporting by Law360.

A week later, former J&J toxicologist John Hopkins, who reviewed hundreds of talc samples over more than two decades at the company, claimed that state-of-the-art (for the time) testing technology consistently showed J&J talc to be “clean and second to none.”

Meanwhile, J&J achieved a legal victory in the Missouri Supreme Court, which postponed a trial that had been scheduled to begin January 22. The case involves 13 women who claim that J&J talcum powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The delay will provide J&J with time to argue why the plaintiffs should be required to try their cases separately, while giving the company hope of overturning multibillion verdicts it has suffered in the state over allegations relating to its talcum-powder products, many of which resulted from trials that included multiple plaintiffs.

Source:
Atkins, D. (24 January 2019). J&J Didn’t Warn Of Talc’s Baby Asphyxiation Risks, Jury Told. Law360
Atkins, D. (31 January 2019). J&J Toxicologist Defends Co.’s Talc As ‘Clean’ At Cancer Trial. Law360
Siegal, D. (28 January 2019). J&J May Get Lifeline In Talc Trials From Mo. High Court. Law3600

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Health Canada Has Determined Talcum Powder Might Be Harmful To Human Health

December 5, 2018

After an investigation, Health Canada has determined that talcum powder— a common ingredient in baby powder, some cosmetics and household products — might be harmful to human health. In an announcement dated December 5, 2018, Health Canada said that it was considering measures to restrict the use of talc in cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drugs. 



The Canadian government is now warning that using products containing talc in the female genital area, like baby powder, is a possible cause of ovarian cancer.  



This Health Canada assessment is a draft and is currently open for public comments. The government is working on a final assessment. If Health Canada confirms its conclusion, it will consider restricting talc’s use. It is recommended that Canadians who are concerned about using talc should check their products’ ingredients and avoid using talc in the female genital area.



 This appears to be the first time that a Government agency has recognized the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Juries in the United States have repeatedly found a link and have ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay billions of dollars in damages in a number of lawsuits natural health products and non-prescription drugs.

Sources:
Health Canada
Global New

Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: Johnson & Johnson Not Liable In NJ Talc / Mesothelioma Lawsuit

October 11, 2018

Less than a year after a jury in the same courtroom handed down a $117-million verdict against consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson over claims that its talcum-powder products contain asbestos that caused the plaintiff’s mesothelioma, a New Brunswick, New Jersey jury on October 11 found the defendant company not liable on similar claims. 



Following a four-week trial, it took jurors less than two hours of deliberations to find that talcum-powder products manufactured and distributed by Johnson & Johnson were not a substantial cause of plaintiff Rosalind Henry’s mesothelioma. 



While on the surface the divergent results in the two trials, which took place in the same New Jersey courtroom within months of one another, may appear contradictory, the facts of the two cases contained several key differences. For example, in the instant case, plaintiff Rosalind Henry and her husband entered into a settlement agreement with Colgate Palmolive prior to the trial against Johnson & Johnson, as the plaintiff has conceded that she used Colgate talcum-powder products for decades, while only using Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products for a period of a years.

Also, as an attorney for the defense reminded jurors during closing remarks, Henry previously had worked for a company that cleaned naval vessels, an occupation that would have exposed her to asbestos, as well.

(J&J continues to adamantly deny that any of its talcum-powder products contain asbestos fibers.) 



Ultimately, it appears that jurors were left with enough questions about the causal connection between Henry’s use of J&J talc-based products and her mesothelioma that they were forced to return a verdict of not liable. 

Attorneys for both sides declined to comment following the verdict, Law 360 reported . 



Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest legal developments involving Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products!

Sources:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: NJ Jury Hears Plaintiffs’ Closing Arguments in J&J Talc Mesothelioma Lawsuit

October 10, 2018

With the four-week trial coming to a close, on October 10, jurors heard closing arguments from both sides in a New Jersey state-law case brought by a woman who alleges Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products contain asbestos that caused her to develop the deadly cancer mesothelioma. 



Mirroring accusations made in similar cases and throughout the trial, in his closing statement, an attorney for the plaintiff claimed that Johnson & Johnson had been aware of the presence of asbestos in its talc-based products for decades, but, rather than warn consumers and pull its products from shelves, the company instead actively covered up the truth and continues to do so to this day. 



Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Johnson & Johnson sought to cast aspersions on the plaintiffs’ claims, continuing the company’s policy of flatly denying the presence of asbestos fibers in any of its talcum-powder products while attempting to paint the plaintiffs and their legal counsel as “people coming in here and trying to scam people for money,” Law360 reported. 



Rosalind Henry, who, along with her husband, brought the suit in 2017 after responding to a law firm’s television ad, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2016 following decades of regular use of talc-based products. The couple are represented by attorney Christopher Swett, who has cited internal company documents he says prove the consumer-goods and pharmaceutical giant has known for years that asbestos fibers were present in its talc-based products. 



As an example, in his closing argument, Swett reminded jurors of internal Johnson & Johnson documents in which J&J employees deliberated over just how much asbestos a human baby could inhale without suffering negative health effects. The discussion followed the discovery of asbestos fibers at a talc mine in Vermont that served as a talc supplier for Johnson & Johnson. 



“Why was J&J trying to determine how much asbestos a baby could breathe if there was no asbestos in the baby powder?" Swett told the jury, according to Law 360 "Common sense tells us that Johnson & Johnson knew it the whole time. They just concealed it." 



An attorney for Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, engaged in a variety of tactics aimed at raising doubts about the alleged connection between Rosalind Henry’s mesothelioma and her use of Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products. Lawyer Diane Sullivan, representing the defendant company, told jurors in her closing remarks that the plaintiff had, in fact, used talc products manufactured and sold by Colgate Palmolive for nearly four decades, compared to less than ten years for J&J talc products. (The plaintiffs settled with Colgate Palmolive prior to trial.) Sullivan also told jurors that Ms. Henry had been exposed to asbestos when she had been employed cleaning naval vessels, again seeking to obscure the link between her disease and J&J products. 


Source:
Law360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Updates: Johnson & Johnson Expert Tells Jury Asbestos / Mesothelioma Links Less Strong In Women

Wednesday, October 8, 2018

As consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson seeks to fend off yet another lawsuit alleging that its talcum-powder products caused a consumer’s cancer, an expert witness testifying on the company’s behalf told a jury on October 3 that the link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is not nearly as strong in women as it is in men, citing medical studies. The testimony, intended to weaken the female plaintiff’s case in the eyes of the jury, came in the third week of a trial taking place in the same New Brunswick, New Jersey courtroom where less than a year ago a jury awarded plaintiffs Stephen Lanzo III and his wife over $100 million in damages over similar claims that J&J talc-based products contain asbestos fibers that caused Lanzo’s mesothelioma. 



Professor Gregory Diette of Johns Hopkins University, who specializes in lung disease, said that while data shows the rates of mesothelioma—a rare and particularly painful and deadly form of cancer—bore a close correlation to asbestos exposure in American men, the same relationship did not hold true for American women. According to Diette, one study showed that over three-quarters (77%) of pleural (lung-based) mesothelioma cases in female patients had not been the product of asbestos exposure. By comparison, around 90 percent of pleural mesothelioma cases in males had been associated with exposure to asbestos fibers. 



“It’s been true for men in America for many many years; it’s not true for women,” Diette testified as to the link between asbestos and mesothelioma, according to Law 360. 



Diette’s assurances as to the unlikeliness of a woman’s developing mesothelioma through asbestos exposure would seem to contradict a $5 billion judgment against Johnson & Johnson earlier this year in which a St. Louis-based jury found the company and its talc-supplier Imerys liable for the ovarian cancer or mesothelioma of nearly two dozen female plaintiffs. 



Going beyond gender-based data, Johnson & Johnson’s expert witness Diette made specific reference to plaintiff Rosalind Henry’s CAT scan, which Diette claimed did not bare the trademark characteristics of asbestos exposure. When asbestos attacks the lungs, Diette asserted, it leaves behind identifiable scar-tissue formations known as pleural plaques, which Diette said were not present in Henry’s CAT scan. Plaintiffs Rosalind Henry and her husband allege that Henry contracted her mesothelioma after years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder on her children, amidst decades of personal use. Mirroring arguments put forth by similarly situated, and ultimately successful, litigants, the plaintiffs contend that Johnson & Johnson has been aware for decades that its talc-based products contain dangerous asbestos fibers but, rather than warning consumers, have chosen to conceal the evidence and deny culpability, despite a growing number of losses in court.

Sources:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Claims Against Reteaid Over Talc Cancer Connection Nonfrivolous, Judge Rules

October 7, 2018

Pennsylvania state law claims seeking to hold drugstore chain Rite Aid liable for selling Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products that allegedly cause cancer are nonfrivolous, the judge overseeing federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) over J&J talc declared October 3, Law360 has reported. 



In a ruling that remanded the case from federal court back to state court, a move that was contested by attorneys for defendant Johnson & Johnson, Judge Freda L. Wolfson noted that retailers in Pennsylvania are subject to a standard of strict liability when it comes to selling dangerous products, meaning that the seller need not be aware of the dangerous nature of the product in order to be held responsible for the harms it causes. 



The case involves allegations that plaintiff Bernadine Moore developed ovarian cancer as a result of regular, long-term use of Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brand products. Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson had argued that Moore had included Rite Aid—legally, a Pennsylvania resident—as a defendant in the case merely as a legal tactic aimed at having the case removed from the federal MDL taking place in New Jersey. Judge Wolfson disagreed. 



"On the face of the complaint, I cannot find any indicia of fraudulent joinder for the purpose of destroying diversity," Judge Wolfson said, according to Law360, addressing J&J’s contention that Rite Aid had been included as a defendant merely to destroy the diversity jurisdiction that had landed the case in federal court. To the contrary, according to Judge Wolfson, "Plaintiff's allegations show an actual intention to proceed against Rite Aid."



In support of her ruling, Judge Wolfson cited the recent Pennsylvania state court case Kleiner v. Rite Aid, which she said involved very similar allegations against the same defendants. In that case, the court found that Rite Aid could be held liable under such claims. 



The suits against Rite Aid represent the opening of a new front in the legal battle over claims that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products cause various forms of cancer, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys already have been found liable for plaintiffs’ cancer in multiple cases, including an approximately $5 billion judgment in a St. Louis Circuit Court case involving 22 plaintiffs.

Source:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Mistrial Declared In California Talc Trial After Jury Deadlocked

September 28 2018

Following a week of ultimately fruitless jury deliberations, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a woman and her spouse who sued Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier alleging that the company’s popular talcum-powder products contain asbestos, which caused her to develop the deadly cancer mesothelioma. 



Announcing the mistrial in her Pasadena courtroom on September 23, Judge Margaret Oldendorf concluded that there was no amount of additional information as to available evidence or points of law that could assist the jurors in resolving their impasse. 



"The court and the parties are not in the position to supply additional evidence that is not in the record, rulings have been made, evidence has been offered, it is what it is,” Judge Oldendorf said, according to Law360. “I did not hear any of you [jurors] indicate there was any confusion or misunderstanding on a particular point of law. I believe that the evidence is in and regrettably I’m going to declare that the jury is deadlocked and declare a mistrial in the case." 



Ultimately, the case appears to have hinged on one expert’s word versus another, with jurors failing to agree on which side presented the more credible evidence. Law360 has reported at least one juror as anonymously citing the weight and credibility of expert testimony as being a key point sticking point among the panel. 



Expert testimony was of particular significance in the case, perhaps determinatively so, as the plaintiffs sought to prove that Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, contain asbestos fibers, which caused plaintiff Carolyn Weirick to develop mesothelioma following over four decades of near-daily use. Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, sought to present evidence backing its continued adamant denials that its products contain asbestos, which is extremely closely associated with a form of mesothelioma that afflicts the lungs. 



Weirick and her spouse Elvira Escudero had sought $29.2 million in compensatory damages for Weirick’s pain, suffering, and loss of an expected 25 years of life and for Escudero’s loss of Weirick’s companionship. 



Johnson & Johnson expressed pleasure with the outcome in the instant case and confidence as to the slew of lawsuits it continues to face across the country alleging that the company’s talc-based products caused consumers to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. 



“We look forward to a new trial to present our defense, which rests on decades of independent, scientific testing confirming that J&J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower do not contain asbestos,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement obtained by Law360. 



Imerys, Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier, previously had been a defendant in the case but reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs just hours before the jury began deliberations.

Source:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Johnson & Johnson Co-Defendant Settles In California Talc Lawsuit

September 24, 2018

Just hours before the beginning of jury deliberations, Imerys Talc America, talc supplier to Johnson & Johnson, entered into a settlement agreement with a California woman and her spouse, who sued the companies alleging that decades of regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products had given the woman mesothelioma. The agreement, the terms of which were not made public, will allow Imerys to exit the case prior to a verdict, though the jury still will be instructed to divvy up the blame, should it find any, between Imerys and Johnson & Johnson. 



In the middle of closing remarks on Monday, September 16, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Margaret Oldendorf informed the jury that they would be receiving a new verdict form removing Imerys as a defendant. Though Imerys confirmed the settlement agreement, the company continued to deny publicly that there are any health risks associated with its talc. 



“Talc’s safe use has been confirmed by several regulatory and scientific bodies, including the FDA, and dozens of peer-reviewed studies, including multiple real-world studies examining talc miners and millers," read a statement issued by Imerys, according to Law360. "This data overwhelmingly confirms the safety of talc and determines that inhaling talc does not increase risk for mesothelioma." 



The California state case was brought by plaintiff Carolyn Weirick and her spouse Elvira Escudero alleging that the talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products contained asbestos, which caused Weirick to develop mesothelioma following decades of near-daily exposure. 



In closing remarks, an attorney for the plaintiffs told the jury that the couple deserved $29.2 million in compensatory damages, while suggesting that the companies also should be liable for punitive damages given their level of misconduct. 



Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest developments in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder litigation!

Source:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: California Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Johnson & Johnson Talc / Mesothelioma Trial

September 24, 2018

As court proceedings neared the end of their fourth week, jurors heard closing statements in the Southern California trial of a woman and her wife who sued Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier for allegedly causing the woman’s mesothelioma, a particularly painful and deadly form of lung cancer. Echoing arguments made throughout the trial, on September 13, 2018, an attorney for the plaintiffs emphasized the breach of trust Johnson & Johnson had committed by allegedly knowingly selling talcum-powder products that contained the dangerous substance asbestos, while legal counsel for the company rebutted the claims by saying the plaintiffs lacked sufficient evidence to prove their allegations. 



In his closing remarks, Jay Steumke, representing the plaintiffs, pointed to evidence presented by electron microscopy expert William Longo, who testified before the jury in August that he had identified asbestos fibers in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder purchased and later saved by plaintiff Carolyn Weirick. Though the nearly empty bottle Longo was provided contained only 0.02028 milligrams of material, using what he described as scientifically accepted extrapolation methods, Longo determined that the bottle, when full, contained roughly 6.5 million asbestos fibers. Steumke told jurors that Weirick had used roughly four bottles of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products per year for over four decades, not including the times that Weirick’s mother had used Johnson’s Baby Powder on her as a child. 



Steumke told jurors that, as a result of the mesothelioma, Weirick will lose approximately 25 years of life expectancy, which would have included her being able to see her three children grow older. Weirick’s wife Elvira Escudero also has sued for loss of companionship. 



In all, Steumke argued that the women deserved $29.2 million in compensatory damages, not including punitive damages. The compensatory damages to which Steumke says his clients are entitled include $25 million in past and future pain and suffering from Weirick, $1.2 million in economic losses, and $3 million for Weirick’s spouse Escudero for loss of companionship. 



Throughout the trial, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have sought to undermine evidence that the company’s talcum powder products contain asbestos, dismissing the testimony of expert witnesses such as Longo as “courtroom science”. 



“It’s about science conducted in the real world for the last sixty years,” Christopher Vejnoska, a lawyer representing Johnson & Johnson, told the jury, according to Law360. “It’s not about data conjured in courtroom [sic.], like magic, over the last three or four weeks ... It’s not about a few, litigation based, litigation focused, well paid experts testifying for the other side." 



The case is expected to go to the jury after attorneys for Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier Imerys give their closing remarks.

Source:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Johnson and Johnson Talc Warning Label To Case To Remain In Federal Court, Judge Rules

August 27, 2018

“On Thursday, August 22, 2018, a federal district court judge ruled against plaintiffs seeking to have their case against consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson moved back to California state court, reportedly commenting that he had “no doubt” but that the case fell under federal jurisdiction. The plaintiffs in the suit are seven women who have sued Johnson & Johnson over the presence of asbestos fibers in its talcum-powder products, saying the company has violated California laws governing false advertising and warning-label requirements. 



While a growing number of plaintiffs across the United States have successfully sued Johnson & Johnson for billions of dollars over allegations that decades of exposure to the company’s talcum-powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, the state false-advertising and warning-label claims represent a novel legal approach to holding the consumer-goods giant accountable for continuing to market and sell to an unsuspecting public products it knew to be unsafe. 



Although the plaintiffs originally brought their suit in California state court, Johnson & Johnson managed to have the case removed to federal court in May 2018 after lawyers for the company successfully argued that the lawsuit met the qualifications for the federal venue, including that the plaintiffs and the defendant were citizens of different states and that the monetary value involved exceeded the $75,000 minimum threshold for federal cases. 



In his August 22 ruling, US District Court Judge George H. Wu agreed, despite arguments from the plaintiffs that the case belonged in state court because the real party of interest is the State of California. Though acknowledging that the argument may have some merit, Judge Wu said it went against the established precedent of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the US Supreme Court. 



Judge Wu labeled such considerations “above my pay level,” while noting, “I don’t think this is a subject where I think district judges should be pontificating,” according to Law360. 



Specifically, the women have sued J&J under a trio of California state laws, including the False Advertising Law, the Unfair Competition Law, and Proposition 65. The plaintiffs are seeking a ruling forcing J&J to place labels on its talc-based products warning consumers about the presence of asbestos, which is highly associated with mesothelioma, an especially deadly form of cancer. The plaintiffs also want the court to impose a $2,500 per day fine on the company for each day it has been in violation of the warning-label requirement. 



Also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Proposition 65 was passed into law by California voters in November 1986. According to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), “The proposition protects the state's drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and requires businesses to inform Californians about exposures to such chemicals.” 



Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest news on the legal fallout facing Johnson & Johnson over its talcum powder products!

Source:
Law 360

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update: Internal Docs Crucial To Plaintiffs Johnson and Johnson Talc Win and Future Cases

August 23, 2018

“They could not get away from…their own words,” Moshe Maimon, one of the attorneys who represented plaintiff Stephen Lanzo III in his landmark victory against consumer-goods giant Johnson & Johnson, told Law360 in a piece published August 21, 2018. 



Maimon was referencing the crucial role that internal documents from Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys played in the $117 million award Lanzo and his wife received from a New Jersey jury earlier this year. Lanzo had claimed that asbestos contained in popular Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder products had caused him to develop the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma, and the jury agreed. 



Lanzo’s case was followed up just months later by a multi-billion-dollar verdict in which a jury found that Johnson & Johnson were responsible for multiple female plaintiffs’ mesothelioma and lung cancer. 



With the dust settling from the staggering sums of the recent jury verdicts, expert observers have begun to recognize the essential role the internal documents revealed during the Lanzo case had not only for that trial but for those that have followed and will continue to come. 



According to the attorneys representing Lanzo, those documents were unknown to them until the defendant companies turned them over during the pre-trial discovery process. Contained within more than a million documents handed over by J&J and talc supplier Imerys was the story of a corporate coverup dating back nearly half a century. 



Among the documents was a 1969 memorandum written by a Johnson & Johnson doctor, which discussed the need for alternative talc sources, citing concerns over the presence of asbestos and the potential litigation that could ensue therefrom. 



Maimon also told Law360 of a 1974 document that similarly expressed grave concerns over the potential health hazards resulting from the presence of asbestos in talc. 



“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the most important document that’s there,” Maimon said, according to Law360. 



Not only were these documents crucial in convincing the Lanzo jury of J&J and Imerys’s culpability, the manner in which they were deployed by Lanzo’s legal team also established something of a roadmap for future plaintiffs, Jean Eggen, distinguished emeritus professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told Law360. 



Acknowledging the challenges facing plaintiffs in such cases, Eggen said that Lanzo’s attorneys had demonstrated what could potentially be a “winning strategy” in other cases, as well. 



In a broader context, Lanzo’s case demonstrates the essential part consumer lawsuits play in bringing important information to light publicly. 



“The thing about the case, the same thing about the legal system, is that it’s really the only mechanism by which these types of documents come out into the public,” Maimon told Law360. “If it weren’t...for this system, there’s no way anybody would know any of this.” 



If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous consumer product, a defective medical device, or a problematic prescription medication, contact the experienced team of attorneys at TheLawFirm.com right away for a free legal consultation! It’s not just about getting justice for you and your family while holding wrongdoers to account; it’s also about exposing the truth to a public that deserves to know. The facts about the issues impacting their health!

Source:
Law 360

Legal Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to be used as medical information or diagnosis. The sources of the information presented in the article have been researched and are linked within the article. Please seek out medical advice from a licensed medical professional if you are experiencing a problem with any of the drugs or devices mentioned in this article. 

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