After a two and a half month consolidated trial of four plaintiffs living with peritoneal mesothelioma, a New Jersey Superior Court jury in Middlesex County unanimously found that Douglas Barden, David Etheridge, D’Angella McNeill, and William Ronning were exposed to asbestos from Johnson and Johnson’s talc products, including its signature baby powder. The jury’s deliberated for more than two days before finding against Johnson & Johnson and awarding compensatory damages in a total amount of $37.3 million, with punitive damages to be considered in a subsequent phase.

The jury also found that the asbestos exposure, which included exposures during infancy, was a substantial factor in causing each to develop mesothelioma, asbestos-related cancer. The jury also made findings that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products were defective because the products lacked adequate warnings, failed to use safer alternative designs, and deviated from J&J’s own design specifications, and standards. This was the first consolidated trial of its kind by plaintiffs who developed mesothelioma as a result of the asbestos contained in J&J talc products.

During the course of the trial, the jury was shown internal Johnson & Johnson documents (previously sealed and marked confidential), that revealed findings of asbestos in talc dating back to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and subsequent decades. Documents also revealed that J&J could have replaced the talc in its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower with corn starch, a safer alternative to talc, but failed to do so because of marketing and litigation concerns. Instead of removing its cancer-causing products from the market, replacing the products with a safer alternative, or warning its customers about the presence of asbestos in its products, Johnson & Johnson adopted testing methods that were not capable of detecting asbestos in the most sensitive manner.  Johnson & Johnson then used its misleading test results to publicly claim its products never contained asbestos.

Numerous experts for the plaintiffs testified at trial. The jury heard testimony from the expert in Materials Sciences, Dr. William E. Longo, whose certified laboratory tested finished J&J talcum powder products (including historical containers produced by Johnson & Johnson in litigation) and found the presence of regulated asbestos fibers in the majority of the containers tested. The jury also heard from other plaintiff experts, including Dr. Jacqueline Moline, a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, who testified that plaintiffs’ repeated exposures to Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-containing talcum powder products were substantial factors in causing their peritoneal mesotheliomas.

The plaintiffs were represented at trial by Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg, Chris Panatier of Simon Greenstone, and Chris Placitella of Cohen Placitella.

After the verdict, Levy Konigsberg partner Moshe Maimon stated: “After reviewing the documents and hearing from the experts, yet another jury unanimously found that J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower contained asbestos and rejected J&J’s decades-long public denials that its products are safe. This is a real public health issue that is just now being brought to light after decades of cover-up, deception, and concealment by J&J.”

This is the latest in a series of victories for clients represented by Levy Konigsberg in mesothelioma cases against Johnson & Johnson.  Those other cases were tried on behalf of Stephen Lanzo in New Jersey – $117 million, Teresa Leavitt in California – $29 million, and Donna Olson in New York – $325 million (this case is currently awaiting final review on appeal).

For more information, please contact Moshe Maimon, mmaimon@levylaw.com, at Levy Konigsberg LLP, 1-800-988-8005.


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