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.
READ MORE TALCUM POWDER LEGAL NEWS
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.