Jury Delivers Win For Johnson & Johnson At $5B+ Talc Powder Trial

Posted by David Siegel on Jan 2, 2020 8:32:23 AM

Forrest closings

CVN screenshot of J&J attorney Allison Brown delivering her closing argument

St. Louis, MO - Johnson & Johnson has prevailed at the latest trial over the alleged presence of asbestos in its cosmetic talc products, defeating a cancer-stricken women’s lawsuit that sought more than $5 billion in damages.

A Missouri state court jury returned their verdict on December 20 following a two-week trial. Plaintiff Vickie Forrest, 56, claims she developed ovarian cancer from years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder supposedly laced with asbestos.

Her attorneys sought $20 million in compensatory damages and up to $5 billion in punitive damages, according to Courtroom View Network’s gavel-to-gavel webcast of the trial.

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J&J successfully argued Forrest suffered from endometriosis, a condition frequently associated with the type of ovarian cancer she developed in 2012.

The verdict is the fourth consecutive cosmetic trial win for J&J, and the eighth overall for the company in 2019, significantly outpacing plaintiff wins for the year.

“The jury carefully considered the decades of independent clinical evidence, which show Johnson's Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” J&J spokesperson Kim Montagnino told CVN after the trial concluded.

Forrest’s attorney Ted Meadows of the Beasley Allen Law Firm called the verdict disappointing.

“J&J will view this verdict as approval of the continued sale of talc-based body powder that harms women,” he said.

Another J&J talc trial is currently underway in Alameda County, California, and another is scheduled to begin next week in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Both trials, which will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN, involve mesothelioma-related claims.

Forrest’s trial was closely watched, due to being just the second ovarian cancer-related trial since 2018, when another St. Louis jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22-women alleging baby powder use caused their ovarian cancer.

The only other ovarian cancer trial since then ended in a mistrial last fall in Georgia state court.

Both trials were also recorded by CVN.

The trial also drew widespread scrutiny from the legal community due to being among the first since J&J revealed in October that it voluntarily recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the FDA detected traces of asbestos in a single bottle from the lot.

Judge Rex Burlison, who has presided over all cosmetic talc trials in St. Louis to date, allowed Forrest’s lawyers to inform the jury of the FDA’s test results, and also about J&J Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky’s decision to skip a Congressional hearing in December on the FDA’s findings.

“Corporate conduct doesn’t get any worse than this,” R. Allen Smith, another of Forrest’s attorneys, told the jury during his closing argument.

J&J disputed the FDA’s findings, arguing the results are to due to possible sample contamination or analyst error at the third party labs utilized by the agency.

“The plaintiffs are seeking to misrepresent science and distract you from the truth,” J&J’s lead attorney Allison Brown of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & From LLP told jurors during her closing argument.

Even with a string of defense victories at trial and on appeal in 2019, J&J continues to face a steadily ballooning number of cosmetic talc lawsuits. Over 16,000 cases are currently pending in state and federal courts throughout the country, with nearly a third of those filed within the last year.

Most of the J&J cosmetic talc trials to date were filmed by CVN. High quality, professionally shot, gavel-to-gavel video, including all witness testimony and digital images of exhibits and demonstratives from dozens of talc trials is available to CVN subscribers.

The Missouri case is captioned Forrest v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC00419.

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Topics: Products Liability, Missouri, Talc