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J&J Wins a Few Asbestos Talc Trials--and Loses More

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After a slew of talcum powder lawsuit losses, J&J notches two wins in California Courts

Torrance, CATo date, Johnson and Johnson has lost 14 talcum powder lawsuits (and is appealing most of those), has won seven cases, and five mesothelioma cases have resulted in hung juries and mistrials. The pharma giant is still facing over 14,000 lawsuits alleging its baby powder contained asbestos talc and caused cancer. Two California juries in October, however, rejected allegations that J&J’s talc contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma.

One of J&J’s latest wins was a retrial. Plaintiff Carolyn Weirick was diagnosed with mesothelioma and claimed her illness was caused by using J&J’s baby powder “for decades”. Weirick’s talc complaint was the sixth trial in California and resulted in a hung jury in 2018, when her lawyers asked jurors to award $28 million, reported Courtroom View Network (CVN). Lawyers dropped that amount to $1.3 million in this new trial.

Weirick’s attorney told jurors that this case is about a breach of trust by Johnson & Johnson and to a lesser extent by Imerys Talc America that supplied J&J, and “That trust has been going on for more than a century based on the image of a mother and child.” Attorney Jay Stuemke said that J&J sought to make this connection deliberately, and its literature had described the baby powder as the purest substance. J&J’s attorney Defense attorney Christopher Vejnoska attempted to invoke jurors’ doubt by questioning whether asbestos was the cause of Weirick’s mesothelioma. “It’s unfortunate, but sometimes, cancer just happens,” he said. “And that’s not an excuse. That’s just science.”

This is the seventh jury that has found in favor of Johnson & Johnson, and importantly, all of the verdicts against the Company that have been through the appeals process have been overturned,” J&J spokesperson Jennifer Taylor told CVN. “Today’s decision, and this trial track record, are consistent with the decades of clinical evidence and scientific studies by medical experts around the world that support the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.” CVN did not receive comments from Weirick’s attorneys.

J&J Defense Losses

About a month before Weirick’s verdict, the same attorneys represented plaintiff Nancy Cabibi where a Los Angeles County jury returned a $40 million compensatory verdict in a J&J talc lawsuit. A judge rejected a request by those attorneys for the Weirick and Cabibi cases to be consolidated and heard concurrently, similar to another trial in September but took place in New Jersey: the jury returned a $37.3 million verdict in the first consolidated trial involving multiple plaintiffs. According to CVN, the judge in the New Jersey case “made the highly unusual decision to strike J&J’s entire closing argument.”

The jury in New Brunswick, New Jersey – which is J&J’s home town-- concluded Sept. 11 that J&J’s handling of the asbestos-laced baby powder contributed to the development of cancer in the plaintiffs, said Chris Placitella, one of the group’s lawyers. Their lawyers argued that internal J&J documents showed officials knew since the late 1960s that baby powder mined in places such as Vermont and Italy contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators. (When asbestos is mined it is often found intertwined with talc.) Plaintiffs Douglas Barden, 65, David Etheridge, 57, D’Angela McNeill-George, 41, and Will Ronning, 46, all argued they faced long-term exposure to carcinogens as children because their parents used baby powder on them. All four were diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The Los Angeles jury awarded Nancy Cabibi and her husband the award following six days of deliberation. Her J&J asbestos talc lawsuit was first filed in state court in Jun3, 2017 but J&J removed the case to federal court in April of 2019.

In Weirick’s case, J&J successfully argued that terminal cancer came about spontaneously, and was not directly caused by the talc powder.

Second Mesothelioma Talc Lawsuit

In the second case, a Long Beach jury found in favor of J&J and rejected plaintiff George Crudge's allegations that the giant pharma company’s baby powder caused his mesothelioma. Crudge, aged 64, said he used J&J baby powder for more than three decades, and also claimed he used asbestos in Clubman brand talc powder after haircuts. He was also exposed to asbestos in auto brakes working during one summer working in an auto shop, but J&J was the only defendant in his case. J&J argued that if indeed his mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure, it was more likely caused by his travel aboard military ships specifically designed to transport asbestos, as well as various construction jobs he worked.

Johnson & Johnson is back in court in a few weeks…


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