A state court in New Jersey awarded $37.3 million to four individuals who claimed to have developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc cosmetic products that the victims inadvertently inhaled. In a surprising move, the presiding judge ordered J&J’s entire closing argument to be removed from the court record.
A jury of six individuals started deliberations on Friday, September 13, in the first talc/mesothelioma trial with multiple plaintiffs. One other talc case involving multiple plaintiffs involved ovarian cancer claims.
After J&J attorney Diane Sullivan made derogatory remarks in closing arguments about the plaintiffs’ attorneys, even calling them “sinister,” Judge Ana Viscomi made the decision to strike the closing argument and begin deliberations. Judge Viscomi presides over New Jersey’s asbestos docket. Upon Judge Viscomi’s action, Sullivan moved immediately for a mistrial, but the judge retorted, “Overruled, sit down.” Sullivan is a partner with the firm Weil Gotshal & Manges.
The entire trial was webcast by Courtroom View Network and included the surprising action of the closing argument being struck by the judge. The second phase of the trial, which will determine punitive damages, will be set later this Fall.
J&J Will Appeal
Jennifer Taylor, a spokesperson for J&J, cited “egregious legal and evidentiary errors, including the inability to present key information to the jury and the striking of our entire closing argument.” She announced in a statement to CVN that the company will pursue an appeal immediately after the final phases of the trial are over. Taylor referenced over a dozen instances of J&J motioning for a mistrial, plus repeated arguments that the company’s talc cosmetic products have never contained asbestos, and then touted J&J’s successes in appeals courts when challenging talc verdicts.
Sullivan created a written motion after her oral motion, in which she accused the plaintiffs’ attorneys of making far worse characterizations of the defense lawyers than anything said by J&J’s attorneys. She claimed J&J executives and their lawyers were called “predators” and “liars.”
Attorneys for the four plaintiffs include Moshe Maimon of the firm Levy Konigsberg in New York, Chris Placitella of the firm Cohen Placitella & Roth in New Jersey, and Chris Panatier of Simon Greenstone Panatier in Texas. In an email to CVN after the verdict, Maimon noted that the strategy that will now be used by Johnson & Johnson is to vilify and “attack the lawyers” rather than defend these cases on the merits. Maimon further said, “As a credit to their diligence and commitment to their oaths, the jury saw through and ignored J&J’s repeated attempts to derail the trial of four terminally ill cancer victims by flouting the rules of court and orders of the judge.”
Four cases have now gone to trial against J&J, only miles from its headquarters. The other trials were also recorded by CVN.
Plaintiffs and Awards
The four plaintiffs and their awards in the current victory against J&J include:
- Douglas Barden and wife, Roslyn Barden – $7.25 million
- David Etheridge and wife, Darlene Etheridge – $9.45 million
- D’Angella McNeill – $14.7 million
- William Ronning and wife, Elizabeth Ronning – $5.9 million
All of the plaintiffs claim that the years of inhaling asbestos allegedly present in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and other popular products is the reason they developed mesothelioma, a lethal cancer frequently associated with exposure to asbestos. J&J strongly denies their talcum based products ever contained asbestos and claims the allegations are centered on flawed science that is “attorney driven.”
Additional Talcum Powder Cases
In federal and state courts throughout the U.S., the company faces thousands of ovarian cancer-related and mesothelioma talc powder claims. CVN has filmed most of the J&J talc trials to date. Two trials are currently taking place in state court in Los Angeles, California. One of them is the retrial of a case from last year that had ended in a hung jury. It is being live cast by CVN.
Currently, jury selection is taking place in Georgia state court in Atlanta for its first cosmetic talc trial, the first ovarian cancer case to occur since last year’s trial in Missouri, where a jury delivered a $4.7 billion verdict. CVN is also filming the Georgia trial.
Have You Developed Cancer From Talcum Powder Products?
Johnson & Johnson now faces an estimated 13,000 talcum powder lawsuits and continues to lose major cases. The company insists that its talcum powder products do not cause cancer, however, many court juries have disagreed with Johnson & Johnson.
The personal injury lawyers at KBA Attorneys are highly experienced in product liability cases where a negligent company and their dangerous products have caused severe harm to innocent consumers. If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, contact KBA Attorneys today to learn what steps you need to take to find justice and compensation.
Call 855-281-271 or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.
- David Siegel. “BREAKING: NJ Jury Awards $37.3M Talc Powder Verdict After Judge Strikes Johnson & Johnson’s Entire Closing Argument”, CVN, https://blog.cvn.com/breaking-nj-jury-awards-37.3m-talc-powder-verdict-after-judge-strikes-johnson-johnsons-entire-closing-argument. Accessed September 12, 2019.