Florida Jury Deadlocks In J&J Ovarian Cancer Talc Trial

Posted by David Siegel on Mar 13, 2024 1:01:57 PM

Oliver closings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Lance Oliver delivering his closing argument

Miami, FL - A Florida state court jury has failed to reach a verdict in a lawsuit claiming Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products caused a woman’s fatal ovarian cancer, and the full trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

The Miami-Dade County jury informed the court they were unable to reach a verdict on March 5 after hearing closing arguments in the 13-day trial on March 1. A date for a retrial has not been set, but Judge William Thomas indicated he hopes to have a new jury hear the case quickly, perhaps as soon as April.

The case was among the first J&J talc trials in Florida and also one of the first to go to trial nationwide after the lifting of a bankruptcy stay that scuttled trial dates for talc cases in numerous jurisdictions. 

Plaintiff Bob Sugarman sued Johnson & Johnson on behalf of his late wife, Marilyn Seskin. Seskin died in 2019 of primary peritoneal cancer, an extremely rare form of ovarian cancer, after being diagnosed three years earlier at the age of 66. During trial his lawyers blamed a lifetime of her using products like Johnson’s Baby Powder for causing his wife’s cancer, but J&J argued their cosmetic talc products are safe and had nothing to do with Seskin’s illness.

Sugarman’s lawyers accused J&J of knowing for decades their talc products allegedly contained asbestos but intentionally withholding that knowledge from the public, however J&J rejected those claims and insisted their talc products are free of asbestos, subject to extensive safety testing and that the plaintiffs' allegations are based on faulty scientific analysis.

Plaintiff attorney Lance Oliver of Motley Rice asked jurors during his closing argument to award both compensatory and punitive damages. He left the exact amount of punitive damages open-ended, but he suggested an amount such as $1 million would be inadequate.

“That’s a rounding error to them,” Oliver said, according to CVN’s webcast of the trial. “They could lose that much money in the crack of their carseat, and it wouldn’t be big deal, so you have to pick an amount of money that would get their attention and I leave that to your discretion.”

During her closing on behalf of J&J, attorney Allison Brown of Skadden told jurors the type of cancer Marilyn Seskin died from is extremely rare, and that if it had any causal relationship to talc exposure it would be far more widespread. Brown instead attributed Seskin’s illness to a variety of other risk factors associated with her specific type of cancer.

“There is not a shred of evidence that came into this case to suggest that talc can work in combination with any of these known factors to light a fire or cause ovarian cancer,” Brown said.

Brown closings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Allison Brown (obscured by a stone pillar) delivering her closing argument - please note CVN's cameras are placed in a location chosen by the court and must remain stationary

More than 50,000 lawsuits related to J&J’s talc products remain pending, and plaintiff attorneys around the country are jockeying for trial dates after federal courts rejected a proposal to settle all pending and future talc cases for roughly $8.9 billion in bankruptcy proceedings.


Most of the remaining cases involve ovarian cancer claims, though a number also involve mesothelioma, a form of cancer affecting the tissue around the lungs frequently associated with asbestos exposure.

Two J&J talc trials could potentially begin this month in state court in Los Angeles, in addition to another talc trial in Sarasota County. A trial is also scheduled for mid-April in New Jersey state court, which would be the first J&J talc trial to go forward in the company’s home state since before the 2020 pandemic shutdown.

The Miami case is captioned Sugarman v. Johnson & Johnson, case number 2019CA017627 in Florida's 11th Judicial Circuit.

E-mail David Siegel at

Topics: Asbestos, Florida