Johnson & Johnson scored a legal win in Los Angeles Superior Court Nov. 16 in what its legal team described as the country’s first trial to examine the claim that J&J talcum powder products cause a lung-related disease.
After deliberating for two days, jurors on Thursday refused to assign any liability to J&J or its talcum powder supplier, Imerys Talc America Inc., for plaintiff Tina Herford’s mesothelioma, an asbestos-linked cancer affecting the lung lining.
The plaintiff’s attorneys, led by Chris Panatier of Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC in Dallas, argued the defendants were culpable because studies have shown some talcum powder samples contain asbestos fibers, and asbestos has well-established dangers for human health.
Panatier did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Herford was a longtime user of J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
Other juries have handed out damages awards in the tens of millions of dollars to plaintiffs after their attorneys made the case that the longtime genital use of the J&J talcum powder products can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. But lately, some of those awards have been reversed.
“We are pleased with today’s verdict and believe that the dismissal of talc lawsuits in New Jersey and verdict reversals in Missouri and California have forced plaintiff attorneys to pivot to yet another baseless theory,” J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement emailed to the Northern California Record.
The company will continue to stand by the safety of its Baby Powder products in future legal proceedings, Goodrich said.
“Johnson’s Baby Powder has been around since 1894, and it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma or ovarian cancer,” she said.
Imerys Talc America spokeswoman Gwen Myers said her company sympathizes with all cancer sufferers, but she emphasized that talcum powder did not cause Herford’s cancer.
“Imerys commends the jury for following the science that establishes the safety of our talc,” Myers said in an emailed statement to the Record. “The jury’s decision is consistent with a recently published study of workers who mined and milled talc all day over the course of more than 50 years that did not find a single case of mesothelioma.”
Morton Dubin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP was the lead attorney for J&J. In a statement, Orrick said Dubin’s closing statement during the trial raised serious doubts about both the plaintiff’s evidence and science.
Orrick’s trial teams will represent the company in upcoming trials as well.