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Another Victory for J&J Talc Lawsuit Plaintiff

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A jury awards plaintiff $12 million in J&J talcum powder lawsuit, despite expert defendant witness testimony that talc didn’t cause mesothelioma

Alameda, CAPatricia Schmitz, age 61, a mother of two with grandchildren and former school teacher, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year and her doctors say she has little chance to survive. Her asbestos talc case states that J&J products caused the disease; J&J’s attorneys and expert witness argued her cancer was “spontaneous in nature”. The jury awarded Schmitz $12 million in damages.

The Schmitz Trial

The trial in Alameda County Superior Court began April 22 and lasted seven weeks, with closing arguments heard June 3. (The trial was streamed live, courtesy of Courtroom View Network. Schmitz claimed that she got mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower and Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet throughout her life. Her attorney told the jury that both Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about known risks associated with their talcum powder products.

Defendant Expert Witness Backfires

Pulmonologist Dr. David Weill testified as an expert witness, called by defense attorneys. He told the jury that Schmitz’s disease is “spontaneous mesothelioma, a series of genetic mutations without an external cause… it remains unclear where the disease in Schmitz first originated, in the pericardium, the membranes enclosing the heart, or the pleura, the membranes lining the lungs,” reported the Northern California Record. Weill said that Schmitz had not demonstrated “markers” of asbestos exposure like the development of pleural plaques, fibrous thickening on the linings of the lungs. “Nothing is 100 percent but with asbestos exposure you’re more likely to have pleural plaques,” he said.

Weill billed the defendants $600 per hour to testify and by May 20 he had invoiced about $20,000 on the case. Weill agreed with Schmitz’s attorney, Joseph Satterley, that he had been hired to testify that a mesothelioma such as that in Schmitz is spontaneous. Satterley had done his homework. He told the jury that Weill had appeared uncertain about the diagnosis of Schmitz’s disease in a deposition taken last April, despite doctors concluding that she had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Further, Weill confessed that he had made a million dollars in litigation.

The 12-member jury, after deliberating for five days, agreed that the companies were negligent and failed to warn that the products had a “design defect” – both substantial factors in Schmitz’s mesothelioma. They did not agree on whether the companies were acting with “malice, oppression or fraud,” so no punitive damages were assessed.

Hundreds more cases are pending against J&J nationwide. Most lawsuits have alleged that Johnson & Johnson products caused them to develop ovarian cancer, but cases claiming the talcum powder causes mesothelioma are increasing.


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