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A recent state court trial in California over claims that side effects of Johnson & Johnson talc powder caused the development of mesothelioma cancer ended in a mistrial on Monday, after the jury was unable to reach a decision after several days of deliberations.
While several other juries have unanimously found that Johnson & Johnson should be forced to pay millions in damages to former users of their talc products who developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, the jury deadlocked in a case filed by Carolyn Weirick.
Weirick alleged that talcum powder products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson contained asbestos, resulting in her development of mesothelioma, which is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is only known to occur as a result of asbestos exposure.
The trial began in mid-August, and the jury began deliberations on September 19. However, the judge was informed on Monday that the jury could not reach an agreement on a verdict in the, causing Judge Margaret Oldendorf to declare a mistrial.
Weirick’s lawsuit sought $29 million in compensatory damages, and unspecified punitive damages. Imerys Talc was originally included as a defendant in the case, but the supplier of talc used in Johnson & Johnson products reached a settlement before jury deliberations began.
Johnson & Johnson sought a mistrial due to the late settlement by the co-defendant, which was denied. However, the manufacturer indicates that it will seek a retrial after the jury deadlocked.
Talc Powder Cancer Lawsuits
The case is part of a massive litigation involving thousands of other Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed in courts throughout the United States, each raising similar claims that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc have known for decades about the cancer risks associated with their products, but withheld warnings from consumers.
Most of the lawsuits involve women who developed ovarian cancer following years of applying the talc powder around their genitals for “feminine hygiene” purposes. However, a number of cases raise allegations similar to those presented by Weirick, that asbestos particles contained in the powder were inhaled and resulted in the development of the rare and often fatal form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma.
In May, another California jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $25.7 million in a similar talc mesothelioma case. In April, a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million to a man diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposure from talcum powder. That verdict included $80 million in punitive damages.
In December, a talc powder case went to trial in California, resulted in a jury award of $17.57 million in compensatory damages and $4.6 million in punitive damages, for the family of man who died of mesothelioma in 2016, after years of exposure to talc.
A number of studies published in recent years have highlighted the link between talc powder and mesothelioma, but questions about the risk were first raised by health officials in Baltimore as early as 1972.
In October 2014, a study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health identified a potential link between an unnamed, but popular, brand of talc powder and asbestos exposure, suggesting that use of the product may have caused the death of at least one unidentified woman due to mesothelioma.
In April 2016, Colgate-Palmolive was ordered to pay $1.4 million to a woman diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to Cashmere Bouquet talc powder. Colgate-Palmolive reached an undisclosed settlement in November over another talcum powder asbestos claim.
While Johnson & Johnson is pursuing appeals in each of the cases that resulted in a verdict, and is refusing to negotiate talc powder settlements, some analysts suggest that the recent verdicts may be a sign of future problems for the manufacturer, due to signs that juries find Johnson & Johnson’s trial defense lacking in credibility.