Oakland, CA – Opening statements took place Monday in California state court at the latest Johnson & Johnson talc/mesothelioma lawsuit to go to trial, while jury selection began Wednesday in Missouri state court at the second ovarian cancer talc trial since 2018, with both trials being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Both trials are being closely watched due to being among the first since the bombshell news in October that J&J would voluntarily recall a batch of Johnson’s Baby Powder after testing by the FDA confirmed it contained asbestos.
The California trial is just the third to take place in Alameda County, a major hub for asbestos litigation. In that case plaintiff Linda O’Hagan claims she developed mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos supposedly present in J&J’s cosmetic talc products over many decades.
The Missouri lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Vickie Forrest, is the first cosmetic talc case to go before a jury in St. Louis since 2018. That jury returned a landmark $4.69 billion verdict in favor of women claiming, like Forrest, that J&J’s talc products caused their ovarian cancer.
Only one other ovarian cancer case (also webcast by CVN) has gone to trial since then, which resulted in a mistrial in Georgia state court.
Most of initial large verdicts that initially made talc litigation explode into the headlines in 2016 took place in ovarian cancer cases in St. Louis. While the majority of ovarian cancer cases to date resulted in plaintiff verdicts, J&J has successfully challenged many of them on appeal, including as recently as October when a Missouri appeals court threw out a $110 million award.
The first half of 2019 saw relatively few J&J cosmetic talc cases go to trial, after the company removed numerous state court cases to federal court. Those cases have largely been remanded, and the second half of 2019 saw a flurry of talc cases going to trial, though they all involved mesothelioma-related claims.
Among them is another J&J talc/mesothelioma trial in Los Angeles, which heads towards closing arguments sometime next week. That trial is also being webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN.
Verdicts in all three trials will be carefully scrutinized in light of the news about J&J’s voluntary talc recall and the FDA’s detection of asbestos in a single batch of baby powder. The company has vigorously argued in previous trials that its talc products never contained asbestos.
J&J claims the FDA’s findings were the result of testing errors or sample contamination and point to numerous tests by third-party labs of the same batch of baby powder supposedly showing no asbestos contamination.
The pending Missouri trial is expected to take two weeks to complete, while the trial in Alameda County will likely stretch well into January.
That will overlap with yet another closely-watched talc case starting the first week of the new year in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where J&J has its headquarters. That trial will involve punitive damages claims after a jury returned a $37.3 million verdict in September, following the trial judge’s unusual decision to strike J&J’s entire closing argument.
Most of the cosmetic talc cases to go to trial since 2016, including both ovarian and mesothelioma cases, were recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. Access to the full video from numerous trials is available with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com