A California woman who blames a life-time of talcum powder use for causing her mesothelioma has been given a second chance at punitive damages, after a judge in Alameda County Superior Court denied Johnson & Johnson’s bid to delay that phase of her trial.
Plaintiff Patricia Schmitz alleged that the raw talc used to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’ s Baby Powder and Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet was tainted with asbestos, a toxic mineral known to cause mesothelioma.
Last month, the jury assigned to hear her case agreed that the companies’ talcum powders were responsible for her cancer and ordered each to pay Schmitz $4.8 million in compensatory damages. Avon Products Inc. was also assessed $2.4 million in damages, despite not being named as a defendant However, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to collect that portion of the talcum powder verdict.
Schmitz’s original jury was unable to reach an agreement on the question of punitive damages. The trial judge subsequently ordered expedited jury selection for a new punitive damages trial, citing her failing health. According to CVN.com, opening arguments are set to begin on Monday, July 8th.
Only Johnson & Johnson’s liability will be at issue during the new punitive trial.
The company was opposed to the expedited proceeding, arguing that the punitive damage claim could not be severed from the rest of Schmitz’s talcum powder lawsuit. After those arguments failed to sway the Court, Johnson & Johnson asked to delay the case so it could appeal the order to expedite. However, the trial judge rejected that request as well.
Johnson & Johnson is named a defendant in more than 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits currently pending in courts nationwide. Plaintiffs claim the company knew for decades that long-term use of its popular talc-based powders might contribute to the development of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, but failed to warn consumers.
Johnson & Johnson has lost 11 talcum powder verdicts since trials began in February 2016. However, its won a fair number of cases and managed to have several plaintiffs’ verdicts overturned on appeal. Johnson & Johnson has also settled four talc-mesothelioma lawsuits since last December.
Additional talcum powder trials involving Johnson & Johnson’s products will get underway later this month in South Carolina, Kentucky, and New Jersey. Los Angeles Superior Court also has cases on the docket for August.