California Jury Clears Johnson & Johnson In Cosmetic Talc Powder Retrial

Posted by David Siegel on Oct 10, 2019 12:35:23 PM

Weirick closins

CVN screenshot of Johnson & Johnson attorney John Ewald delivering his closing argument

Torrance, CA - A California state court jury sided on Wednesday with Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit filed by a woman claiming she developed fatal cancer from inhaling asbestos supposedly present in the company’s cosmetic talc products.

By a vote of 10-2 the panel rejected allegations by plaintiff Carolyn Weirick that the company knowingly withheld information about the supposed presence of asbestos in popular talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder. Her attorneys had sought $1.3 million in economic damages and unspecified punitive damages in a trial that began in early September.

An earlier trial in the same case ended with a hung jury in 2018, when Weirick’s attorneys asked jurors to award her $28 million in damages.

Both trials, along with numerous other talc and asbestos trials, were recorded and webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network and are available with a subscription to CVN’s online video library.

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J&J spokesperson Jennifer Taylor told CVN in an email that the jury correctly determined asbestos was not the cause of Weirick’s mesothelioma, which J&J attorneys argued developed spontaneously.

“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,” Taylor wrote. “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.”

An attorney for Weirick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The verdict is the latest in a string of jury decisions in cosmetic talc cases after a months-long pause in most J&J talc trials in the wake of the company’s unsuccessful attempt to consolidate thousands of cases pending in state courts throughout the country in federal district court in Delaware.

J&J made the move following the bankruptcy filing of their talc supplier and co-defendant in most cases, Imerys. J&J filed removals to federal court of thousands of talc cases, Weirick’s case among them, and while most have since been remanded the action resulted in the delay of numerous trial dates.

With many of those cases now coming up for rescheduled weeks, the last two months have seen a flurry of talc-related trial activity.

In September a New Jersey state court jury returned a $37.3 million verdict in the first consolidated J&J talc/mesothelioma trial involving multiple plaintiffs, after the judge made the highly unusual decision to strike J&J’s entire closing argument. A second phase of the trial to determine punitive damages will likely take place sometime before the end of the year.

Later that same month another Los Angeles County jury returned a $40 million compensatory verdict in a J&J talc lawsuit, with the plaintiff in that case, Nancy Cabibi, represented by the same firm that represents Weirick. Those attorneys had asked for the Weirick and Cabibi cases to be consolidated and heard concurrently like the trial in New Jersey, but a judge rejected that request.

All of these cases involved mesothelioma-related claims, but last week a Georgia state court case which was the first ovarian cancer-related claim to go to trial in over a year ended in a mistrial following days of fruitless jury deliberations.

The next J&J talc case set for trial begins October 21 in Los Angeles, and those proceedings will also be webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN.

Weirick was represented at trial by Jay Stuemke and Leah Kagan of the Dallas-based firm Simon Greenstone Panatier.

Johnson & Johnson was represented by John Ewald and Warrington Parker of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s New York City and San Francisco offices.

Judge Cary Nishimota presided.

The case is captioned Carolyn Weirick v. Brenntag North America, et al., case number BC656425, in the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County.

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Topics: Products Liability, California, Talc