The new year could prove pivotal for Johnson & Johnson, as the company faces numerous trials involving the alleged link between its popular talcum powder products and cancer.
In fact, jury selection for a mesothelioma case is set to begin today in Alameda County Superior Court, California’s so-called “Asbestos Hub.” According to CVN, this is the first time a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuit will go to trial in Alameda County, one of the nation’s busiest jurisdictions in terms of asbestos litigation.
Last May, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded over $25 million to plaintiffs in a similar talcum powder lawsuit. However, two subsequent juries found for Johnson & Johnson, while two other trials ended in mistrial.
A Humbolt County Superior Court jury empaneled for another mesothelioma lawsuit returned a defense verdict in November.
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 10,000 talcum powder lawsuits nationwide. The vast majority were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer from asbestos-tainted talc or because they used the company’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes.
The remaining cases allege that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powders caused mesothelioma.
Since 2016, more than a dozen Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits have gone to trial in courts throughout the country. Plaintiffs have won eight cases so far, with verdicts ranging from $4.7 million to $25 million. However, some verdicts were later overturned.
Four juries have found for Johnson & Johnson, while mistrials were declared in three cases.
According to Bloomberg.com, the company will face nearly three times as many talcum powder lawsuit trials in 2019, including 38-plaintiff case scheduled for an August trial in Missouri’s St. Louis Circuit Court. Last July, a jury in the same jurisdiction awarded $4.7 billion to 22 plaintiffs who alleged asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer.
“The increased number of trials, especially in what is considered a plaintiff-friendly venue like St. Louis, doesn’t augur well for J&J,” one legal expert told Bloomberg. “The more they lose, the more cases will be filed. I just don’t see how they are going to get a handle on this litigation.’
The case scheduled for trial in Alameda County will be the first since Reuters published a shocking report suggesting Johnson & Johnson executives knew as early as the 1970s that the raw talc used to manufacture Baby Powder and other popular products might contain small amounts asbestos.
According to internal documents highlighted by Reuters, officials at the Johnson & Johnson were concerned that asbestos revelations could undermine its image as a caring company. So rather than warn the public, they tried to stymie regulatory efforts aimed at limiting talc in cosmetic products and undermine research into the health effects of talc.
On December 18th – just days after Reuters published its report – Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle a talcum powder mesothelioma lawsuit that would have gone to trial this month in New York City’s Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL). However, the company insisted the settlement was a “one-off” and promised to vigorously defend against the remaining claims.