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A California jury is hearing evidence in the latest trial over the asbestos risks associated with Johnson & Johnson talcum powder product, involving claims brought by a woman diagnosed with mesothelioma allegedly caused by asbestos fibers in the talc.
The case was filed by Teresa Leavitt in Alameda Superior Court in Oakland, and is one of about a dozen talcum powder cancer lawsuits expected to go before juries this year.
Leavitt was born in the Phillipines and indicates that her parents used Johnson & Johnson products that contained talc from South Korea for the first two years of her life. In 2017, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is only known to occur as a result of exposure to asbestos.
According to allegations raised in the claim, Johnson & Johnson talcum powder that contains ingredients from a South Korean mine has tested positive for asbestos, increasing the risk of consumers developing cancer.
Johnson & Johnson currently more than 11,700 Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits that have been filed in courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the company has failed to warn consumers for decades about the serious health risks associated with their talc-based products.
Most of complaints involve adult women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following daily use of talcum powder around the genitals for “feminine hygiene”, but some of the cases involve individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma that allegedly resulted from asbestos particles contained in the powder.
In 2018, a number of high-profile court losses shook Johnson & Johnson, including a $4.7 billion verdict awarded in Missouri state court for 22 different women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following regular talcum powder applications. In addition, a California jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $25.7 million in May 2018, and a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million to a man diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposure from talcum powder.
Last month, a special report by Reuters revealed internal memos from Johnson & Johnson showing that the company likely has known it’s talc contained asbestos since at least the 1950s, but hid that information from the public.
Since the Reuters report was published, Johnson & Johnson’s stocks have plummeted about nine percent, wiping out $30 billion of the company’s market value, amid investor concerns about liability the company may face from the current litigation, as well as damage to the reputation of the company.
On Monday, the company’s lawyers filed a brief seeking to prevent mention of the article during the trial.
Additional Talcum Powder Cancer Trials Scheduled Throughout 2019
Leavitt’s trial will be followed by four additional asbestos cases scheduled to begin this month in the New York City Asbestos Litigation court.
At the end of this month, a multi-plaintiff trial is set to begin in St. Louis, involving claims brought for 13 different women who allege they developed ovarian cancer from talcum powder, including five who have already died as a result of the injury.
Another trial involving claims for 24 different women is set to begin in April 2019, with a third multi-plaintiff case expected to begin in August 2019.
Although Johnson & Johnson has maintained that it will continue to defend the safety of their products at trial, and is pursuing appeals in each of the prior cases that resulted in damage awards, the company will face increasing pressure to negotiate talcum powder settlements to avoid a steady stream of trials in the coming months and years.
Some analysts have suggested that the recent verdicts are a sign that juries find Johnson & Johnson’s trial defense lacking in credibility, and the company could face substantially greater liability and uncertainty with thousands of cases going before juries if they fail to establish a global settlement program in the future.