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Johnson & Johnson Faces First Cosmetic Talc Trial In Key Asbestos Hub, CVN To Webcast Live

Posted by David Siegel on Jan 4, 2019 3:01:09 PM

talc-powder-stock

stock photo of talc powder

Oakland, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Monday in the first lawsuit involving Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products to go to trial in the important asbestos litigation hub of Alameda County, and the full trial will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

To date, every J&J talc trial in California with one exception has taken place in the Los Angeles County area. This trial will be closely watched, both due to it being the first such trial involving J&J’s products in one of the country’s busiest jurisdictions for asbestos cases, and also the plaintiff being represented by the same attorney who landed a $117 million verdict in the first J&J talc case last year in the company’s home state of New Jersey. That trial was also recorded by CVN. 

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The trial will also draw scrutiny, after plaintiffs have failed to prevail at a cosmetic talc/mesothelioma lawsuit involving J&J since May of last year. A Missouri jury returned a massive $4.6 billion verdict against J&J in a talc case last summer, but that involved claims asbestos supposedly present in talc caused ovarian cancer, not mesothelioma.

Five cosmetic talc/mesothelioma trials involving J&J have gone to trial in California since the first case in late 2017. Two ended in defense verdicts, two ended in a mistrial, and one resulted in a plaintiff verdict. The only trial of the five not to take place in LA County occurred in rural Humbolt County, where J&J prevailed.

A sixth trial in LA that resulted in a $417 million verdict involved ovarian cancer-related claims, but J&J prevailed on a motion for a new trial. In addition to their trial verdicts, J&J has notched a number of wins challenging talc verdicts in post-trial motions and on appeal.

Similar J&J talc/mesothelioma cases over the last year in New Jersey and South Carolina ended in defense verdicts and hung juries, so with the momentum clearly shifting in favor of J&J at talc mesothelioma trials, the outcome of this pending case could play an important role in the contours of the potential resolutions of other pending cases.

Thousands of cases involving cosmetic talc products from companies like J&J, Colgate and others are pending throughout the country. Most involve claims related to ovarian cancer, but a growing number of mesothelioma-related cases have been filed after the first went to trial in 2017.

The trial will also be the first after both Reuters and the New York Times last month revealed extensive reporting on the alleged presence of asbestos in J&J’s talc products. The company’s stock fell about 10 percent after publication of the articles, losing in excess of $45 billion in value.

The same month the Reuters and NYT pieces ran, J&J reached a $1.5 million settlement in a cosmetic talc case set for trial in January in New York City. Bloomberg reported that, “In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind settlement while facing thousands of lawsuits, the world’s largest health-care products maker and its talc supplier agreed to pay more than $1.5 million to a woman who claimed J&J’s baby powder gave her asbestos cancer, according to people familiar with the accord.”

J&J and their co-defendant and talc supplier Imerys have steadfastly maintained that their products do not cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, and that the cosmetic talc sold to consumers never contained asbestos. They accuse plaintiffs of relying on attorney-driven science, and at trial they have relentlessly battered scientific studies supposedly linking talc exposure to cancer as being rooted in faulty and outdated methodology.

J&J and Imerys have repeatedly filed motions seeking to bar news media cameras from being present for cosmetic talc trials, largely without success. They again sought to limit media access to this pending trial in Oakland, however their objections were overruled by Judge Brad Seligman.

Numerous other cosmetic talc trials are pending in the first weeks of 2019 and beyond. A trial involving Colgate begins next week in Los Angeles, and the first ovarian cancer case involving J&J since last summer’s blockbuster verdict goes to trial in St. Louis, Missouri on January 20. That case will also be webcast live by Courtroom View Network.

CVN's trial archive includes numerous talc and asbestos trials from California, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida and numerous other jurisdictions, along with hundreds of other personal injury and products liability trials, all available for monthly subscriptions as low as $99. 

The Oakland case is captioned Teresa Leavitt and Dean McElroy v. Johnson & Johnson, case number RG17882401, in Alameda County Superior Court.

The plaintiffs are represented by Joseph Satterly of Kazan McClain Satterly & Greenwood.

J&J and Imerys are represented by attorneys from King & Spalding and Dentons, among others. 

E-mail David Siegel at dsiegel@cvn.com

Topics: Products Liability