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A virtual trial being held in California state court over the link between Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and cancer has ended in a mistrial, after the plaintiff’s health condition deteriorated rapidly and later died.
Days into a trial being held through videoconference technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports indicate that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Klaus informed jurors that he would have to declare a mistrial.
The trial involved a lawsuit filed by Rosalino Reyes, who indicated that he developed mesothelioma cancer following exposure to asbestos and talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder, which he used for decades as deodorant. However, Judge Klause has ended the trial after Reyes’ health suddenly declined to the point where he was unable to continue communicating with his attorneys. Reyes reportedly died later the same week, which is likely to change the nature of the case to involve wrongful death claims.
The virtual trial was being closely watched, as it was the first talcum powder cancer trial to be held since the coronavirus outbreak shut down courts nationwide earlier this year. Many other plaintiffs, like Reyes, face declining health due to their ongoing fights against mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other injuries allegedly caused by talc exposure.
In addition to similar state court claims, Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 20,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer failed to warn about the risks associated with exposure to talc and asbestos particles found in the popular products.
Johnson & Johnson has been hammered with massive verdicts in prior cases that have gone to trial before the pandemic, including a $2.1 billion award to nearly two dozen women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which was recently upheld on appeal.
Although Johnson & Johnson has maintained it intends to defend the safety of talcum powder at trial, the manufacturer removed talc-based Baby Powder from the market in North America in May 2020, raising speculation it was attempting to limit the liability due to the continued use of the products by adult women.
If Johnson & Johnson refuses to negotiate talcum powder settlements or otherwise resolve the litigation, it is expected that a number of individual cases will be set for trial throughout the federal court system in the coming years.