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For the second time in two weeks, a talcum powder asbestos case ended in a mistrial, after the jury failed to reach a verdict on whether Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about the risks associated with asbestos contained in their popular products.
On Tuesday, a Los Angeles jury was dismissed after several days of deliberation, when a California judge determined that they were hopelessly deadlocked and incapable of reaching a verdict in a lawsuit brought by Kirk Von Salzen, a former computer salesman who says that talcum powder exposure resulted in mesothelioma.
The jury was stuck voting eight to four against Johnson & Johnson, but needed at least nine votes to come to a conclusion.
It was the second mistrial involving asbestos cancer from talcum powder case in as many weeks. Another California case reached a similar conclusion on September 24, involving a lawsuit brought by Carolyn Weirick, who says she also developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure through talc.
Both cases followed several recent massive verdicts awarded to consumers diagnosed with mesothelioma or ovarian cancer, after finding that Johnson & Johnson has known about the talc cancer risks for decades and failed provide adequate warnings.
Talc Powder Cancer Litigation
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 10,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed in courts throughout the United States, each raising similar claims that Johnson & Johnson has covered up information about serious safety risks associated with their products.
Most of the cases involve women who developed ovarian cancer following years of applying the talcum powder around their genitals for “feminine hygiene” purposes. However, a number of cases raise allegations similar to those presented by Von Salzen, 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.