Law360 (May 24, 2018, 12:03 AM EDT) — A California jury on Wednesday hit Johnson & Johnson with $21.7 million in compensatory damages in a trial over its talc baby powder’s alleged connection with asbestos cancer, the plaintiff’s attorneys told Law360.
In a complaint filed in June, Joanne Anderson claimed she developed malignant mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos from products sold by Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., which were treated as a single defendant for the purposes of the trial, according to her attorneys.
Attorneys for the defendants declined to give comment until the jury returns a verdict on punitive damages, a decision that is scheduled for tomorrow, they said.
“While we are disappointed with this decision, the jury has further deliberations to conduct in this trial and we will reserve additional comment until the case is fully completed,” Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. spokesperson Carol Goodrich told Law360 in an email.
J&J has faced a slew of similar allegations but claims that its products don’t contain asbestos or cause cancer, bringing in scientists and experts. Anderson cited studies of mills and mines dating back to the early part of last century, linking asbestos, cancer and J&J products in her complaint.
The complaint lists several defendants, including J&J units and suppliers, but it could not be determined Wednesday which of the other defendants, if any, were held responsible by the jury.
It’s at least the second time in two months that a jury has awarded damages to plaintiffs claiming that J&J’s asbestos-containing talcum powder gave them mesothelioma.
In April, a New Jersey jury slammed Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier with combined punitive damages of $80 million after finding that the pharmaceutical giant acted with reckless indifference by selling the baby powder that contributed to a man’s development of cancer.
Attorneys sparred on Wednesday in New Jersey over a defense bid to toss those verdicts. In urging the court to set aside a $37 million in compensatory damages and a combined $80 million in punitive damages awarded to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife, Imerys Talc America Inc. attorney John C. McMeekin II of Rawle & Henderson LLP said there is no evidence that talc from Imerys and its predecessor companies contained asbestos.
Anderson is represented by Simon Greenstone Panatier PC.
J&J is represented by King & Spalding LLP.
The case is Joanne Anderson et al. v. Borg Warner Corp. et al., case number BC666513, in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles.