Three state court juries in California, Kentucky and New Jersey will begin hearing evidence next week in trials involving Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products, as talc trials previously delayed by removals to federal court get back on track following remands.
The cases in all three states involve claims that plaintiffs developed mesothelioma by inhaling asbestos supposedly present in J&J products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, which defendants vehemently dispute.
All three trials will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. Here is a breakdown from CVN of what makes each of these pending cases notable.
Kentucky - Hayes v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, et al.
This case in Louisville, Kentucky will be the first in the state to go to trial involving cosmetic talc products. It is brought on behalf of Donna Ann Hayes, who died of mesothelioma allegedly caused by asbestos present in Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder and J&J’s Shower To Shower.
Hayes’ original complaint also alleges exposure to asbestos via materials from an automobile service center owned by her husband.
Besides being the first talcum powder trial in Kentucky, the Hayes case will be just the second cosmetic talc trial to include both J&J and Colgate as defendants. The only other such trial to date ended with $12 million plaintiff verdict last month in California, with a separate trial on punitive damages set to begin next week.
The Hayes estate is represented by the California-based firm Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood.
California - Schmitz v. Johnson & Johnson, et al.
For the first time in a cosmetic talc case, different juries will determine a plaintiff’s compensatory and punitive damages.
On June 12 a jury returned a verdict for in favor of plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, who claims she contracted mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos supposedly present in cosmetic talc products sold by J&J and Colgate-Palmolive. While Schmitz received compensatory damages, the jury hung on the question of punitive damages for J&J.
Over J&J’s objections, Judge Frank Roesch ordered the expedited selection of a new jury for the subsequent phase of the trial, citing Schmitz’s rapidly failing health.
Schmitz’s case was already closely watched by attorneys involved in talc litigation throughout the country, due to being the first trial involving both J&J and Colgate as defendants and being just the second J&J talc trial in the busy asbestos litigation hub of Alameda County.
The trial will now likely draw further scrutiny, due to being the first time separate juries determine compensatory and punitive damages in a cosmetic talc case. Only J&J’s liability will be at issue in the punitive phase, after Judge Roesch ruled the jury could not hear about liability assigned to Colgate or non-party Avon in the previous trial.
Schmitz is also represented by Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood.
New Jersey - Barden, et al. v. Brenntag North America, et al.
This upcoming trial in J&J’s hometown of New Brunswick will be the first consolidated talc/mesothelioma trial involving multiple plaintiffs.
Four separate talc-related claims will be heard simultaneously before Judge Ana Viscomi, who presides over the state’s consolidated asbestos docket.
While there have been consolidated trials in talc cases related to ovarian cancer, including one last summer in Missouri that resulted in a $4.6 billion verdict, this upcoming case will be the first involving mesothelioma-related claims. It could represent an important test, as other courts may look to consolidation as a more efficient means of working through a growing body of talc-related claims.
The case will be the fourth J&J talc trial in New Jersey, with the company securing defense wins in the previous two trials. The trial also marks the first appearance at a New Jersey J&J talc case for the Texas-based firm Simon Greenstone Panatier PC, which represents the plaintiffs along with local firm Levy Konigsberg.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com