A jury in California has been convened to hear evidence in yet another trial involving the alleged link between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder and mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
According to a talcum powder lawsuit currently pending in Los Angeles Superior Court, plaintiff Carolyn Weirick was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017, after using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for decades. She alleges that the talc used in those products was contaminated with asbestos and accuses Johnson & Johnson of concealing this information from the public. (Case No. BC656425)
“This case is about a breach of that trust by Johnson & Johnson first, joined by Imerys, throughout my client’s lifetime,” Weirick’s attorney asserted last week in his opening statement. “The trust that we’re talking about is a trust that’s been carefully cultivated over 100 years.”
On Thursday, a scientist called to testify on behalf of Weirick told jurors that asbestos fibers had been found in samples taken from mines in Italy and Vermont that supplied Johnson & Johnson with talc.
According to Dr. Steven Compton, eight of ten tests in one sampling taken from a talc mine in Val Chisone, Italy tested positive for asbestos contamination, as did six of seven samples taken from the mine in Vermont.
“That’s 85.7% of the Vermont talc samples you were provided with were positive for asbestos, correct?” Wierick’s attorney asked.
“That’s correct,” Compton said.
Johnson & Johnson sold the Vermont mine to Imerys Talc America in the 1980s, which continued to supply the heath care products’ giant with talc.
On cross examination, however, Compton acknowledged that he had not conducted tests on any of the talcum powders Weirick actually used.
Johnson & Johnson is currently named a defendant in more than 10,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in courts nationwide.
Though the majority of these cases were brought on behalf of women who claim that long-term exposure to the products themselves caused ovarian cancer, a growing number of claims charge that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder was tainted with asbestos.
In July, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.7 billion to 22 plaintiffs who alleged that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s popular talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer. The case was the first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit to put forth asbestos allegations.
In May, a California jury ordered the company and its talc suppliers to pay $27.1 million to another woman who allegedly developed mesothelioma due to asbestos in Baby Powder. Johnson & Johnson was also assessed $4 million in punitive damages after the jury found that it had acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.
A month earlier, a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a man who also claimed that his life-long use of Baby Powder was the only possible explanation for his mesothelioma diagnosis.
Johnson & Johnson did win California’s first talcum powder mesothelioma trial, which concluded last year.