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Lanzo Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Toxic Tort Trial Opens in New Jersey

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Plaintiffs say J&J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower caused mesothelioma

New Brunswick, NJNext week the New Jersey Superior Court will hear opening arguments in Lanzo v. Cyprus Amex Minerals Co, the second Johnson & Johnson talcum powder mesothelioma case to go to trial. The first toxic tort lawsuit to allege a link between J&J’s talcum powder products and mesothelioma ended in a win for J&J. Another case involving Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder settled. There’s a lot riding on the outcome of Lanzo .

What Lanzo claims



The complaint in Lanzo alleges that Stephen Lanzo regularly and frequently used and was exposed to asbestos-containing J & J talc powder products, that the use of these products generated dust and exposed him to respirable asbestos fibers, which caused his mesothelioma. The link between exposure to asbestos fibers and mesothelioma is well established.

The challenge his lawyers face is to show that the specific talc products he used contained asbestos and that this exposure, not something else, caused his disease. Enough doubt is all it takes to sink a plaintiff’s case. The recent California decision in Herford et al v. AT&T Corp et al makes that harder.

Similar claims, different facts



Herford is a California state court decision and although it may be persuasive to a New Jersey court, it is not binding precedent. A different jurisdiction and a different jury may produce a very different result.

The biggest problem Stephen Lanzo may face is in convincing a jury that the specific talc products he used contained asbestos. Federal environmental law has required the testing of talcum powder for asbestos since the mid-1970s.The defense will likely argue that Lanzo’s potential exposure was very brief, if it occurred at all. Tina Herford, on the other hand, began to use J&J talc products many years before rigorous testing was required.

Other factual differences may work in Lanzo’s favor. Tina Herford had also received radiation therapy for treatment of breast cancer, which an expert witness called by the defense linked to her later mesothelioma diagnosis. There is no indication, so far, that J&J has uncovered a potential intervening cause in Stephen Lanzo’s situation.

Why it matters



It certainly matters for Stephen Lanzo and his wife, but even beyond them, the case is important for two reasons.

First, many more trials could occur in New Jersey, since that is where J&J has its corporate headquarters. An adverse decision in Lanzo might affect far more plaintiffs than a bad ruling in California. Second, another win for J&J might depress the settlement value of the hundreds of talcum powder mesothelioma cases estimated to be still in the pipeline. All eyes are on Lanzo , which is expected to be on trial through February.

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