CMBG3 Law previously reported on the fourth trial that has taken place in which it was alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder contained asbestos-contaminated talc, which led to the development of plaintiff’s mesothelioma (Antoine Bostic v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 2017-CP-16-0400 in the Court of Common Pleas for Fourth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina). On Friday afternoon, after a full day of deliberations, the jury announced to the court that it felt that there was no way that it could ever reach a unanimous verdict. After polling the jury, the presiding judge declared a mistrial. The case will potentially be re-tried at some point with a different jury.
The case, which took place in South Carolina, is the fourth case nationally to reach a verdict in the asbestos-contaminated talc products litigation. The first such trial was in California and resulted in a defense verdict. The second case took place in New Jersey and resulted in a $117 million verdict ($80 million of which was punitive damages). A third case in Los Angeles County resulted in a $25.7 million verdict for the plaintiff. The Bostic case was closely watched by many to see whether there would be a defense verdict, thereby creating a split in results for the trials thus far. In addition, this was the first case to proceed to trial against Rite Aid, from which the plaintiff allegedly purchased asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products. However, the jury in Bostic unanimously found that there was no evidence that plaintiff ever used talcum powder purchased from a Rite Aid owned store and therefore found the company not liable.
Plaintiff, Bertila Boyd-Bostick, filed her lawsuit in May of 2017 before passing away in October of 2017. The case was pursued by her husband and law partner, Antoine. Plaintiff alleges that Johnson & Johnson baby powder products were used on Boyd-Bostick from the day that she was discharged from the hospital after birth after every bath and every diaper change. She continued to use the baby powder products until she was diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma at the age of 30. Defendants (Johnson & Johnson and Rite Aid) point to Boyd-Bostick’s alleged bystander exposures to asbestos-containing products at a tractor mechanic shop.
As in previous trials with Johnson & Johnson, the jury has been shown studies from Johnson & Johnson showing that the talc used in the company’s talcum powder products was never contaminated with asbestos fibers. Johnson & Johnson also points to studies conducted on Italian workers at the company’s talc mines and mills in Italy, which found no cases of mesothelioma among the workers. Nor were there any cases of mesothelioma found among Johnson & Johnson’s workers at its talc mines in Vermont. One of the more significant issues at trial is whether tremolite fibers found in samples of Johnson & Johnson talc were asbestos fibers or non-asbestos fibers. The distinction between the two fiber types is complex and relies heavily on scientific principles that the jury is hearing extensive testimony about.
Plaintiff counters with expert testimony that the samples tested of Johnson & Johnson baby powder did, in fact, contain asbestos. They also presented evidence that they allege showed that Johnson & Johnson knew of the hazards of asbestos and failed to warn the public or take steps to find alternates (such as corn starch) for the talcum powder.
The attorneys at CMBG3 Law LLC have represented clients in talc, products liability, and toxic tort matters for many years. We provide the most current advice by staying informed of legal, scientific and medical developments regarding a wide variety of substances and products, including talc-containing products, used by consumers every day. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact John Gardella (email him or 617-279-8225).