Retrial Begins In $25M California Talc/Mesothelioma Lawsuit After Mistrial

Posted by David Siegel on Sep 12, 2019 5:40:47 PM

Weirick openings-1

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Jay Stuemke delivering his opening statement

Torrance, CA - A second California state court jury heard opening statements this week in a woman’s lawsuit claiming she developed mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos allegedly present in Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products, after an earlier jury deadlocked in the case last year.

Plaintiff Carolyn Weirick’s earlier trial ended in a mistrial despite jurors deliberating for six days. Her attorneys at that time asked for an award of $25 million dollars. Weirick, 60, is a schoolteacher who claims more than 40 years of exposure to products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower caused her to develop mesothelioma. She maintains she’s had no other possible exposure to asbestos other than from cosmetic talc products.

In both the previous and current trial, J&J’s attorneys argue that their products never contained asbestos, and that people can develop mesothelioma spontaneously.

The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. CVN also recorded gavel-to-gavel video of the earlier trial, which is available to subscribers as part of CVN’s Video Library.

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Unlike the previous trial, J&J will be the sole defendant in the case. The 2018 trial also included J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys, but the company has since declared bankruptcy citing the ballooning costs of talc-related litigation.

That bankruptcy resulted in a delay of the retrial, which had been set to take place in the Spring. J&J remanded thousands of talc lawsuits, including Weirick’s, to federal court seeking to consolidate them in Delaware, where the Imerys bankruptcy proceedings are pending.

The effort was largely unsuccessful and most of the removed cases have been remanded to state court, but the result was that numerous trial dates that were pending earlier this year had to be reset, resulting in a months-long pause in most cosmetic talc trials.

Besides the lack of Imerys as a co-defendant, the retrial will also differ from the initial case by taking place in the wake of two widely-read bombshell reports by Reuters and The New York Times detailing J&J’s alleged knowledge that their cosmetic talc products contained asbestos - allegations the company vehemently denies.

J&J is represented in the current case by Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has represented the company at numerous prior cosmetic talc trials.

Weirick is represented by the same firm that took her initial case to trial, Simon Greenstone Panatier.

The Dallas-based firm is also representing the plaintiff at another cosmetic talc trial currently underway in Los Angeles County. They had sought to have the two cases consolidated, but a judge denied that request.

Had the request been approved, the case would have been just the second talc/mesothelioma trial to involve multiple plaintiffs. The first such trial ended Wednesday in New Jersey state court, with an ward of $37.3 million to four plaintiffs. Simon Greenstone Panatier was part of a three-firm team involved in that case, and that trial was also recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN. 

While most of the recent talc-related trial activity has involved mesothelioma claims, an ovarian cancer-related case is also underway in Georgia state court, the first such case in the state and the first ovarian case since a Missouri jury returned a landmark $4.7 billion verdict last summer.

Weirick’s trial is captioned Weirick v. Brenntag North America, et al., case number BC656425 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Topics: California