Johnson & Johnson's baby powder Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr

 

A jury has come back with a verdict in the latest talcum powder trial—and it’s for the defense.

Following two mistrials in similar cases that had juries in Los Angeles deliberating for days, a  jury in New Jersey took just a half an hour to decide that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder did not cause a woman to get mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Kimberly Montagnino said the jury’s verdict was unanimous and “consistent with decades of clinical evidence and scientific studies.”

“We have deep sympathy for anyone diagnosed with any form of cancer and appreciate that people are looking for answers,” Montagnino wrote in an email to Law.com. “However, Johnson’s Baby Powder is not the cause of this disease. Over the past 50 years, multiple independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations have been conducted by respected academic institutions and government bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and none have found that the talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos.”

Johnson & Johnson was represented by Diane Sullivan and Allison Brown, partners in the Princeton, New Jersey, office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Christopher Swett, an associate in the Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, office of Motley Rice, represented Rosalind Henry, diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016, and her husband, Fred. He and Motley Rice member Nathan Finch, in Washington, D.C., said in an email to Law.com that it was a “hard fought trial” in which another defendant, Colgate-Palmolive Co., which makes Cashmere Bouquet products, settled just before opening statements.

“Our investigation showed that the only potential sources of [Henry's] asbestos exposure were from cosmetic talcum powder used on herself (Cashmere Bouquet) and to diaper her children (Johnson and Johnson),” they wrote. “We continue to believe that Johnson and Johnson’s internal documents show that the talc it sourced from Vermont is contaminated with asbestos, and we will continue to push these cases to trial every chance we get.”

The trial, which began on Sept. 17, took place in Middlesex County Superior Court.

This week’s trial is the eighth alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused mesothelioma. Four others—three in Los Angeles Superior Court and one in Darlington County Circuit Court in South Carolina—ended in mistrials.

Swett also handled the South Carolina trial, in which the plaintiff was the widow of a lawyer who died in 2017 at age 30.

The first trial ended with a defense verdict on Nov. 16 in Los Angeles Superior Court. This year, another Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded $25.75 million, and a Middlesex County Superior Court in New Jersey came out with a $117 million verdict.

Judges in Los Angeles Superior Court declared mistrials on Oct. 2 and Sept. 24, with one of them going extra lengths to assist the jury in reaching a verdict. Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier represented the plaintiffs in those trials. King & Spalding and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe represented Johnson & Johnson in those cases.

The trials are separate from the nearly 5,000 cases alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused women to get ovarian cancer. In those cases, juries in Missouri and California have come out with five verdicts ranging from $55 million to $4.7 billion, though courts have tossed at least two awards.

Unlike those cases, which have focused on the alleged links between Johnson & Johnson’s talc products and ovarian cancer, the mesothelioma cases target whether cosmetic talc products contained asbestos, known to cause mesothelioma.