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New Jury To Consider Punitive Damages For Johnson & Johnson Following $12M Talc Powder Verdict

Posted by David Siegel on Jun 28, 2019 1:01:33 PM

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Oakland, CA - After a previous jury delivered a $12 million verdict earlier this month in a trial involving Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products, a new jury will hear opening statements July 8 in California state court at a second trial to determine 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. 

The full proceedings will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, which also recorded and webcast the first phase of the trial, now available to subscribers in CVN’s online video library. 

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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’s lead attorney, Joe Satterley of Kazan Mcclain Satterley & Greenwood, already has one massive punitive award in a J&J talc case to his name. In 2018 he and co-counsel Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg LLP landed a $117 million verdict at a J&J talc case in the company’s home state of New Jersey, including $80 million in punitive damages. That trial was also recorded and webcast by CVN. 

In opposing an expedited second trial, attorneys for J&J argued the punitive damages claim can’t be severed from the rest of the case. They asked Judge Roesch to delay the start of the trial while they appealed his ruling, their request was denied. 

State court talc lawsuits were largely paused nationwide after J&J removed thousands of cases to federal court, citing the need to consolidate the disparate cases in light of the company’s talc supplier Imerys filing for bankruptcy in Delaware earlier this year. 

While the removals did scuttle numerous potential trial dates, hundreds of cases have since been remanded back to state courts with many new trial dates pending. 

A J&J talc case is set for trial July 15 in Charleston, South Carolina. Another is set for that same date in Louisville, Kentucky, which will be that state’s first J&J talc trial. 

Opening statements in another J&J talc case in New Jersey are expected in mid-July, and trials that had been scheduled for May and April in Los Angeles, California will now take place in August. 

The Oakland case is captioned Patricia Schmitz v. Johnson & Johnson, et al, case number RG18923615 in Alameda County Superior Court. 

E-mail David Siegel at dsiegel@cvn.com

Topics: California