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Jury Hears Opening Statements In New Jersey’s 1st Johnson & Johnson Talc Powder Trial

Posted by David Siegel on Jan 29, 2018 6:59:08 PM

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CVN screenshot of plaintiffs attorney Moshe Maimon, left and J&J attorney Mike Brock delivering their opening statements

New Brunswick - A New Jersey state court jury heard opening statements on January 29 in the first lawsuit to go to trial in Johnson & Johnson’s home state over allegations that talcum-based hygiene products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower contain asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick, prevailed last year in California at the only other trial to date involving claims that their talcum-based products caused mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer affecting the lining around the lungs that is linked to inhaling asbestos.

The current trial, which is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, is being closely watched to see if J&J can avoid a headline-grabbing verdict in its own backyard after multiple trials in Missouri and California over supposed links between talcum powder and ovarian cancer resulted in high-profile plaintiff wins.

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The case is also the first to feature a male lead plaintiff in a trial involving J&J’s talc products. Stephen Lanzo, 46, claims he developed mesothelioma after inhaling Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades. The lawsuit filed by Lanzo and his wife Kendra in 2016 against J&J and their talc supplier Imerys Talc America accuses the companies of knowing cosmetic talc products contained asbestos but failing to warn consumers.

J&J and Imerys maintain Lanzo’s mesothelioma is the result of exposure to asbestos from other sources, and that the talc used in J&J’s products never contained asbestos.

Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg LLP delivered the opening statement on behalf of the Lanzos. He described to jurors how talc and asbestos occur naturally together, and that J&J knew as early as the 1970’s that their cosmetic talc products contained asbestos.

Maimon argued that J&J made multiple and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to remove asbestos from their talc products in the 1970’s.

“If you try so hard to get it out, it’s because it is there,” he said.

Maimon stressed to jurors Lanzo wasn’t exposed to any other potential sources of asbestos other than Baby Powder, and that the type of asbestos detected in his tissue samples matched the kind supposedly present in J&J’s talc products.

Representing J&J, Mike Brock of Kirkland & Ellis LLP argued that the supposed link between talc products and mesothelioma is based on faulty testing methods and a small number of outdated studies.

“The science doesn’t support it,” Brock said, suggested that Lanzo was exposed to asbestos in his childhood home and at school.

He told the jury that J&J’s products never contained asbestos, and that they performed careful testing to confirm that.

“This is not a company that was sticking its head in the sand over this issue,” he said. 

Counsel for Imerys is slated to give their opening statement on Tuesday.

The trial before Judge Ana C. Viscomi, who presides over the state’s centralized asbestos docket, is scheduled to take roughy two months to complete, and the full trial will be webcast and recorded by CVN.

CVN also recorded the previous J&J talc/mesothelioma trial in California, along with multiple ovarian cancer trials. All of those trials and more are available to CVN subscribers in our one-of-a-kind online trial video archive.

The case is captioned Lanzo v. Cyprus Amex Minerals Co, et al., Docket No. L00738516 in Middlesex County Superior Court.

Email David Siegel at dsiegel@cvn.com

Topics: product liability