J&J suffers first trial loss in talc/mesothelioma suit

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JohnsonbabypowderJohnson & Johnson has suffered its first trial loss in a lawsuit claiming its talc-based products including Johnson’s Baby Powder contain cancer-causing asbestos, with a New Jersey jury ordering J&J and another company to pay $37m in damages. Reuters Health reports that the verdict of liability in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick came as J&J fights thousands of cases claiming its talc products can also cause ovarian cancer. The jury found J&J and another company liable after more than two months of trial.

The report says the lawsuit was brought by New Jersey resident Stephen Lanzo, who said he developed mesothelioma after inhaling dust that was generated through his regular use of J&J talc powder products since his birth in 1972. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer closely associated with exposure to asbestos. It affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities, most often around the lungs, but also in the abdomen and elsewhere.

The jury awarded Lanzo $30m and his wife $7m in compensatory damages. It found J&J was responsible for 70% of the damages and said a unit of France-based Imerys SA, its talc supplier, was responsible for 30%. The jury will return for further proceedings to determine whether to award punitive damages.

The report says J&J denied the allegations and says Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. J&J said it was disappointed but would withhold further comment until the trial’s completion. Gwen Myers, an Imerys spokesperson, said Imerys plans to appeal and is confident talc did not cause Lanzo’s cancer.

The report says the Lanzos did not respond to requests for comment.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, faces talc-related lawsuits by 6,610 plaintiffs nationally, largely based on claims it failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer by using its products for feminine hygiene.

In five trials in Missouri involving ovarian cancer lawsuits, juries found J&J liable four times and awarded the plaintiffs a total of $307m. In California, a jury awarded a now-deceased woman $417m. But, the report says, in October, a Missouri appellate court threw out the first verdict there for $72m and a California judge tossed the $417m verdict. J&J is seeking to reverse the other verdicts.

Asbestos claims are a more recent challenge for J&J, the report says. It won the only other asbestos-related trial in November when a Los Angeles Superior Court jury ruled in its favour.

Reuters Health report

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