Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update
The latest lawsuit trial news and updates for Talcum Powder Lawsuit Trials.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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..
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.”
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