CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Joseph Satterley delivering his closing argument. Click here to see video from the trial
Oakland, CA - A California state court jury began deliberations Thursday in the first lawsuit to go to trial involving claims that asbestos allegedly present in both Colgate-Palmolive’s and Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products caused a woman’s fatal cancer.
Plaintiff Patricia Schmitz’s case has been closely watched since going to trial in April. In addition to being the first time a jury heard concurrent arguments about J&J and Colgate’s products, it is also just the second trial in the key asbestos jurisdiction of Alameda County involving J&J’s products.
Schmitz, a 61-year-old retired teacher, claims that 40 years of using products like Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet and Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her to develop mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer frequently associated with asbestos exposure.
The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Schmitz’s attorney Joseph Satterley of Kazan Mcclain Satterley & Greenwood, told jurors during his closing argument that evidence shown during the trial proved both companies knew their talc products contained asbestos but didn’t warn their customers.
“To continue to sell for years and years a product knowing there is a cancer risk is not reasonable,” Satterley said.
Satterley also represented the plaintiff in the only other J&J talc case to go to trial in Alameda County, which ended earlier this year with a $35 million verdict.
J&J attorney Alex Calfo of King & Spalding slammed the scientific underpinning of the plaintiffs case, arguing Schmitz’s mesothelioma is naturally occurring.
“Not one published study concluded talc causes mesothelioma,” Calfo said, while also calling into question the credibility of the plaintiff’s experts. “Not one single plaintiff witness said Johnson & Johnson baby powder had asbestos until they were hired by plaintiff lawyers.”
Two other cosmetic talc cases reached a verdict during the long-running trial.
On May 31 the first J&J talc trial in New York City ended in a $325 million verdict, including $300 million in punitive damages.
Another trial in South Carolina, the third J&J talc trial in the state so far, ended last month in a defense verdict after just a few hours of jury deliberations.
Numerous other cosmetic talc cases throughout the country were slated for trial in recent weeks, but the defendants sought removals to federal court due to the recent bankruptcy of Imerys, J&J’s talc supplier.
They argue cosmetic talc claims should be consolidated in federal court in Delaware where Imerys bankruptcy proceedings will play out, but to date federal judges have largely rejected that position and remanded numerous cases to state courts.
While the removal delay scuttled a number of trial dates, a few cases are potentially going forward in the coming weeks. A case involving J&J could begin in early July in New Jersey, followed by what will be the first cosmetic talc case in Georgia that same month.
The current case in California is captioned Patricia Schmitz v. Johnson & Johnson, et al, case number RG18923615 in Alameda County Superior Court.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com