California jury rules against mesothelioma patient in first case to hear claims over asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powders.
By Laurence Banville
After a month-long trial, a California State jury has ruled against a woman who accused Johnson & Johnson of concealing the alleged asbestos content of some talc-based body powders, Reuters reports. The verdict, rendered by a jury for the Los Angeles Superior Court on November 16, 2017, freed the multinational healthcare conglomerate of any liability for the case of mesothelioma developed by Tina Herford, a woman who claims to have used the company's baby powders for years. Johnson & Johnson talc supplier Imerys Talc was also found to be not liable.
Attorneys Say J&J Talc Suppliers Knew About AsbestosWhile thousands of women have sued Johnson & Johnson over the link between talc and ovarian cancer, Herford's case was the first to draw an explicit connection from the cosmetic product to mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that begins in the tissue lining of organs.
At trial, the woman's attorneys relied on several internal corporate memos, dating back to the 1970s, in which Johnson & Johnson executives appear to acknowledge that asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma, had been detected at company talc mines. The documents relate specifically to a mine in Vermont and one in Italy. Herford's lawyers argued that the memos provided evidence that corporate leaders knew the deadly mineral was being placed on store shelves but did nothing to warn the public.
Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits Find Success, Defeat In CourtElsewhere, Johnson & Johnson is facing nearly 6,000 lawsuits that say long-term exposure to talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer. Five of these cases have gone to trial in a Missouri State court, where four juries have found Johnson & Johnson responsible for concealing a potential cancer link. A similar verdict was rendered in California, bringing the total compensation awarded to ovarian cancer patients to around $724 million.
More recent court victories, however, have put wind in Johnson & Johnson's sails. In October 2017, a Missouri Appeals Court overturned one of the verdicts, striking a $72 million judgment against the company. The $417 million decision from California was reversed the same month.
Johnson & Johnson's attorneys have pointed to these new wins as an explanation for the recent rise in mesothelioma-related cases. As the Daily Mail writes, defense counsel say recent upsets "forced plaintiff attorneys to pivot to yet another baseless theory." But the attorneys representing cancer patients say it's too early to read into a single case. "It is a matter of time before juries begin holding them to account," Herford's attorney told reporters.
Colgate Ends Mesothelioma Claims In SettlementOne of Johnson & Johnson's direct competitors, Colgate-Palmolive, has had little luck defending itself against claims that a talc-based product contained asbestos. After losing a $13 million jury trial over the Cashmere Bouquet powder, Colgate has resolved numerous mesothelioma lawsuits through out-of-court settlements, including 43 claims in 2017 alone.
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