The Johnson & Johnson talcum powder trial that was set begin in a Manhattan state court this week is being held off until January because there weren’t enough potential jurors available to sit for the case.
The trial, which is before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe, is the 11th regarding Johnson & Johnson’s allegedly asbestos-laden talcum powder, which plaintiffs say is giving them cancer.
The talc trials have been conducted in state courts across the country and of which four have ended in mistrials.
Attorneys for plaintiffs taking on the consumer-goods and pharmaceuticals giant have managed to win big verdicts in some venues, including the record-breaking $4.7 billion verdict that a St. Louis jury handed up earlier this year in favor of 22 plaintiffs, which was approved by a judge and which Johnson & Johnson is appealing.
Other juries have handed up awards of $117 million and more than $25 million to plaintiffs.
But overall Johnson & Johnson has the upper hand in litigation: three juries have found for the defense, which includes one in a New Jersey trial that needed only half an hour to render a defense verdict.
In the Manhattan case, plaintiff Ann Zoas, a 78-year-old Suffolk County resident, alleges that using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder led to her 2017 diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. According to court papers, she smoked for most of her life and says she was not exposed to asbestos by way of any of the jobs that she’s held.
Zoas is represented by a team from prominent plaintiffs attorney Mark Lanier’s firm, The Lanier Law Firm, a familiar opponent for Johnson & Johnson: it’s the firm that won over the jury in St. Louis and the one that also won a $502 million verdict from a Texas jury in litigation against Johnson & Johnson and its unit DePuy Orthopaedics over allegedly faulty hip implants.
With regard to the half-billion-dollar verdict from the Texas jury, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial in the case, citing “deceptive” conduct by Lanier himself that included failing to disclose that he gave gifts to doctors who testified as expert witnesses.
Attorneys for the Lanier firm who are working on the New York trial did not respond to requests for comment on the delay.
Johnson & Johnson has retained Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler to represent the company in Manhattan. A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the adjournment.
The company denies that its talcum powder contains asbestos and that it is responsible for Zoas’ diagnosis, court papers state. The company also notes that Zoas has previously been diagnosed with throat cancer.