Defense Verdict In California’s First Asbestos-Contaminated Talc Trial

Nov 19, 2017 | Asbestos, Talc, Toxic Tort

On Thursday, a California jury returned a verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson and talc supplier Imerys, finding that the companies’ products were not unsafe, did not cause the plaintiff’s mesothelioma, and that the companies did not fail to warn regarding hazards were known or knowable at the time that the talcum powder products were sold. The case was the first case in California that went to trial in which it was alleged that asbestos-contaminated talc caused a plaintiff’s mesothelioma.  The four week trial concluded with two days of deliberation by the jurors.

The case (Hereford) originally began trial in October 2017; however, as CMBG3 Law reported previously, a mistrial was declared only a few days into trial, as plaintiff impermissibly testified as to her awareness of the ongoing litigation against Johnson & Johnson for ovarian cancer claims regarding the company’s talcum powder product. The Judge ruled that such testimony was impermissible due to its potentially inflammatory effect on the jury.

A new jury was subsequently picked and trial resumed with a new jury empaneled. Critical for the defense was Johnson & Johnson’s expert witness, John Hopkins, who began working for the company in 1976 and has held a consulting role for the company in recent years. Hopkins provided testimony regarding the Val Chisone talc mines in Italy, where Johnson & Johnson sourced its talc until 1967. In three separate studies (1976, 2003, 2017), there were no findings of mesothelioma in any talc miner that worked at the mines. Hopkins also testified that the Vermont mines from which Johnson & Johnson sourced its talc after 1967 were also studied, with results also showing no reported findings of mesothelioma. In addition, the defendants argued that the true cause of Ms. Hereford’s mesothelioma was 30 sessions of radiation therapy that she received for her breast cancer in 1998.

In the Herford case, plaintiff contended that Johnson & Johnson knew that the talc that it used in its products contained asbestos as early as the start of the 20th century up until the 1970s. Plaintiff further claimed that Johnson & Johnson took active steps to conceal this information from the public. Johnson & Johnson denied that it concealed any information from the public and further contended that the studies that plaintiff relies on to suggest that the talc used in Johnson & Johnson’s products contained asbestos were not taken from the same sources from which Johnson & Johnson obtained its talc for the products used by Hereford. 

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 617-936-4353).




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