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Opening statements are scheduled to begin today in the first talcum powder lawsuit to go to trial in New Jersey state court, involving allegations that exposure to talc caused the development of mesothelioma, a rare and fatal form of lung cancer.
The lawsuit was filed by Stephen Lanzo III, and his wife, Kendra, alleging that Lanzo developed mesothelioma due to asbestos fibers contained in popular talcum powder products like Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, which were sold by Johnson & Johnson and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co.
Judge Ana Viscomi, in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Jersey, is overseeing the trial, which is the latest in a number of recent trials that alleged talc powder products contained asbestos or had asbestos-like qualities, but the first in New Jersey state court, where Johnson & Johnson’s headquarters are located.
The trial begins just a month after a similar talc powder case went to trial in California, resulting 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.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is only known to be caused by exposure to asbestos or breathing asbestos fibers. It is a lethal disease that is often at a very advanced stage when a diagnosis is made, resulting in a very short life-expectancy
Lanzo alleges that he has been regularly exposed to talc containing asbestos since birth, maintaining that it was the cause of his mesothelioma diagnosis in July 2016.
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.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Claims
In addition to concerns over the talc powder mesothelioma risk, Johnson & Johnson currently faces thousands of Johnson’s Baby powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower body powder lawsuits are being pursued over failure to warn about the risk that talc contained in those popular products may cause adult women to develop ovarian cancer after application around the genitals.
Over the past year, a number of talcum powder ovarian cancer cases have gone before state court juries, with many resulting in multi-million dollar damage awards over Johnson & Johnson’s failure to adequately warn about the risks associated with their products.
While Johnson & Johnson is pursuing appeals in each of the cases and refusing to negotiate talcum powder settlements for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 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.