Marking the second major mesothelioma verdict against Johnson & Johnson in less than a year for the firm, a California jury awarded a total of $29.5 million dollars to Levy Konigsberg clients Theresa Leavitt and her husband, Dean McElroy, for Mrs. Leavitt’s mesothelioma caused by exposure from asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. Mrs. Leavitt and her husband are represented by a team comprised of lawyers from Levy Konigsberg LLP and Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, A Professional Law Corporation. The defendants who were ordered to pay the $29.5 million verdict are: Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”), Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., and Cyprus Mines Corporation (“Cyprus”), a supplier of the talc. The verdict included $22 million for Mrs. Leavitt’s past and future pain and suffering from her mesothelioma, $5 million for Mr. McElroy’s spousal damages (known as “loss of consortium” and “loss of services and society”), and $2.5 million in economic losses, such as medical bills and lost earnings. The jury further found that J&J had intentionally withheld information about risks posed by asbestos in its Baby Powder.
At trial, Johnson & Johnson and its talc suppliers continued to deny that their talc ever contained asbestos. However, the jury rejected this defense, finding that Mrs. Leavitt’s use of Johnson’s Baby Powder was a substantial cause of her mesothelioma. The jury also found that J&J and Cyprus failed to provide adequate warnings about the dangers of asbestos in their talc and that Johnson & Johnson and Cyprus had intentionally withheld information about the risks of asbestos in their iconic Baby Powder products.
The jury was shown numerous internal documents from J&J and Cyprus that indicated the Defendants were aware of asbestos in the talc used to manufacture Johnson’s Baby Powder and J&J’s Shower to Shower products as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than warn consumers or replace their talc with an alternative ingredient—such as cornstarch—J&J and other talcum powder manufacturers adopted a testing method that was not capable of detecting the asbestos. The jury determined that Johnson & Johnson was responsible for 98% of the fault of Mrs. Leavitt’s injuries while Cyprus was determined to be 2% at fault.
The evidence at trial paralleled that presented in a New Jersey case that resulted in a $117 million verdict in April 2018 where the plaintiffs were also represented by the Levy Konigsberg and Kazan Law Firms.
This was the first Johnson & Johnson talcum powder trial to conclude following reports by Reuters and the New York Times concluding that Johnson & Johnson executives have been aware of asbestos in their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products for decades, but hid this information from the public and government regulators. Another defendant, Imerys Talc America, Inc. (“Imerys”), declared bankruptcy during the trial due to the large number of lawsuits claiming injury from the talc it supplied to Johnson & Johnson and other talcum powder manufacturers. As a result of the bankruptcy filing, Imerys was not present at the time of the verdict.
The team of trial lawyers in the Leavitt case are Moshe Maimon, partner at New York and New Jersey-based Levy Konigsberg LLP and Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, A Professional Law Corporation, of Oakland, California.
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