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A New York City jury recently returned a substantial award in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit brought by a woman who claims her rare and deadly form of cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos fibers in the talc-based products she used for decades. The lawsuit named pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson as the defendant and alleged that the company knew for decades about the presence of carcinogens in its talcum powder products but provided no warning.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in New York City Supreme Court, the now 66-year-old plaintiff developed cancer from using talc-based products produced by Johnson & Johnson. Jurors hearing the case had already found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding the victim and her husband $25 million in compensatory damages for the couple’s economic damages as well as their pain and suffering from the wife’s mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.

This latest award included $300 million in punitive damages, a special type of compensation juries may sometimes be allowed to hand down in situations in which plaintiffs can demonstrate that the defendants were egregiously negligent in their conduct. Punitive damages are meant as a means to send a message and deter other similarly negligent conduct and protect the public.

A New York state jury recently handed down a substantial $25 million verdict in favor of a plaintiff who claims she developed an asbestos-related cancer after decades of using talcum powder products manufactured and sold by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson. The award includes compensatory damages for the victim’s medical bills and lost wages as well as the pain and suffering of living with the disease as well as damages for the plaintiff’s husband.

According to the lawsuit, filed in 2017 in New York City Supreme Court, the plaintiff used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower almost daily from the time she was 8 years old until after she was married. Her attorneys claimed she developed mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos fibers in the talc.

In addition to the $25 million in compensatory damages, jurors will decide what if any punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiffs. Punitive damages are a special type of award which courts may allow juries to hand down in cases in which plaintiffs have demonstrated that the level of misconduct by the defendants was so egregious that it warrants such damages as to deter other parties from acting in a similarly negligent manner.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed into law a piece of legislation that would give workers who were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers the legal right to file civil lawsuits in court even after the workers’ compensation periods to file claims has expired. Until now, workers in Illinois had 25 years from the period of exposure to file claims for latent injuries with their employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, but the new law will give victims whose diseases do not present symptoms until after that period the chance to seek damages.

The legislation, originally introduced in the state senate under SB 1596, passed the General Assembly in a relatively short amount of time and went to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jay Hoffman, said the bill would allow workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of lung cancer often caused by exposure to asbestos, a way to be compensated if symptoms do not present themselves until after the statute of limitations to file claims has expired.

However, despite the good intentions of the law to help the worker, pro-business and insurance lobbies will likely challenge the legislation claiming companies would be in a state of perpetual liability since workers now have the right to bring injury claims in civil court. Traditionally, injured workers must bring their claims through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier or their state’s administrative system for dealing with denied claims.

A recent report by Reuters news appears to suggest that while pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc-based products, the company continued to market and specifically target female minority communities. The revelations come after Johnson & Johnson settled two asbestos cancer lawsuits, one in Oklahoma and the other in California, during the middle of trial and settled another in New York just two-weeks before the start of proceedings.

According to the report, the “right place” to focus, according to a 2006 internal J&J marketing presentation, was “under-developed geographical areas with hot weather, and higher AA population,” the “AA” referring to African-Americans. Reuters also points out that Johnson & Johnson marketing executives sought to target overweight women, going as far as to request a significant increase in marketing funds over previous years to target overweight persons.

Since the 1970s, adults have been the main consumers of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products after pediatricians began to warn of the dangers to infants who inhale talc. By the mid-2000s, adults have accounted for over 90% of Baby Powder sales after Johnson & Johnson targeted its marketing efforts at a variety of demographics, including teens, the elderly, minority, and overweight females.

A Delaware federal judge recently denied a request by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to remove thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits from various state courts and place them all under the purview of a single jurisdiction. Johnson & Johnson made the request after its co-defendant and talc supplier in the lawsuits, Imerys Talc USA, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the weight of the litigation the two companies faced.

Johnson & Johnson had sought to invoke legal protections afforded to Imerys as a means to collect the estimated 2,400 talcum powder lawsuits under one federal judge and form a single defense strategy. Those claims alleged that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc USA were responsible for the plaintiffs’ injuries due to the presence of asbestos fibers about which the two defendants knew but failed to provide any warnings to consumers.

Fortunately for the plaintiffs, who have yet to have their day in court, the judge hearing the motion denied Johnson & Johnson’s request. In her ruling the judge noted that “J&J cannot establish an emergency” tied to Imerys’ bankruptcy-reorganization effort. The judge went on to note that “J&J’s desire to centralize its own state-law litigation does not justify the finding of an emergency” requiring immediate transfer.

A New York Supreme Court judge recently handed down a significant ruling in an asbestos cancer lawsuit in favor of a man who claims his former employer caused his terminal cancer by using materials contaminated with deadly carcinogens. The case involved a now deceased victim who claimed that during his time as a roofer, he frequently used products manufactured with asbestos by CertainTeed Corporation and that this was the source of his exposure to the carcinogen which caused his ultimately fatal condition.

CertainTeed Corporation attempted to avoid liability for manufacturing the asbestos-contaminated roofing and construction materials by filing a motion for summary judgement to have the case thrown out of court. The company claimed that they had ceased manufacturing products with asbestos during the victim’s stated dates of employment in which he claimed to have used the asbestos-containing materials.

However, the New York City Supreme Court judge hearing the case noted that CertainTeed could not meet the legal standard to have the case dismissed on such grounds at it could not definitively prove that the plaintiff had not come in contact with asbestos-containing materials that had already been manufactured. In fact, the plaintiff had testified that during projects which lasted significant amounts of time, he used construction materials manufactured by CertainTeed years prior, including over 100 cans of roofing coating known to contain asbestos.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson recently filed paperwork to have a Delaware federal judge consolidate thousands of talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits against one-time co-defendant Imerys Talc USA. If the judge were to grant the request, thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson would be removed from state courts across the country where plaintiffs have accused Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys Talc USA of knowingly producing and marketing a carcinogenic product without any warning to consumers.

Imerys Talc USA, Johnson & Johnson’s long-time talc supplier, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the weight of thousands of talcum powder cancer lawsuits in which it was named co-defendant with Johnson & Johnson. While Johnson & Johnson has not filed for the same protections itself, the company seeks consolidation of Imerys cases through a special bankruptcy law provision which allows creditors with significant financial ties to the talc miner to make the request to promote “expeditious resolution of claims.”

Johnson & Johnson currently faces an estimated 13,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country, with over 10,000 consolidated in before a federal judge in New Jersey for pre-trial information exchanges. Were the pharmaceutical company to prevail in its motion before the Delaware judge, Johnson & Johnson would have effectively removed almost all of its claims from state courts where juries have handed down substantial plaintiffs verdicts.

In the closing days of Maryland’s legislative session, lawmakers are seriously considering a proposal that would move tens of thousands of pending asbestos cancer lawsuits from state courts and put them into arbitration to clear the backlog. The move is supported by one of the more well-known asbestos cancer lawyers in the state, who has an estimated two-thirds of all such cases currently in litigation in one single court, as well as the Maryland state senate.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, the bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat sailed through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on a 10-1 vote two days after its hearing. That same bills then passed the full Maryland state senate by a unanimous vote of 44-0 and will need to pass the state house of representatives before the year’s session expires in just a few days.

There are 30,000 asbestos cancer lawsuits pending in just Baltimore County Circuit Court alone, many of them brought by victims and family members of people who once worked in Sparrows Point steel mill, Baltimore’s shipyards, and other construction and manufacturing businesses. Under the proposal, plaintiffs with asbestos-related cancer would be able to have a new office mediate their cases first and still have the option to go to trial if neither side is satisfied.

Just weeks after a California jury handed down a substantial $29 million plaintiff’s verdict, Johnson & Johnson has settled three other talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits with victims and families. Those and other lawsuits against the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant claim that plaintiffs developed serious health conditions, including mesothelioma and other cancers, due to years of using Johnson & Johnson talc-based products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

The most recent case was settled in Oklahoma, just hours after an Oklahoma City-jury began its deliberations into whether or not Johnson & Johnson’s Baby powder was a contributing factor in a 77-year-old victim’s development of peritoneal mesothelioma. On the same day, Johnson & Johnson settled another talcum powder cancer lawsuit in the middle of a trial brought by a 36-year-old who claimed she too developed mesothelioma from years of using talcum powder products produced and marketed by the company.

The third settlement involved a New York asbestos cancer lawsuit slated to begin this month. The settlements are a rare occurrence in the history of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder lawsuit litigation as the company has typically chosen to litigate these types of cases until the end, rather than negotiate with plaintiffs. Johnson & Johnson faces an estimated 13,000 additional asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country accusing the company of causing various types of cancer.

After a year that saw juries hand down a number of substantial plaintiffs verdicts in asbestos cancer lawsuits, pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson and its supplier Imerys Talc USA are slated to see their highest number of such cases over the next 12 months. Imerys has already collapsed and filed for bankruptcy protection under the mounting legal and financial trouble.  After a St. Louis jury handed down a $4.69 billion verdict to 22 female plaintiffs in 2019, this year could pose even more legal and financial trouble for the companies, with the group scheduled to defendant their actions in front of three times as many juries than the previous year.

Four trials scheduled in 2019 will take place in the same Missouri state court where jurors handed down their multi-billion dollar verdict and several more will take place in venues considered to be friendly to plaintiffs. One trial in August has 38 plaintiffs, setting the stage for potentially an even larger verdict than before. Since cases began going to trial in 2016, juries in California, New Jersey, and Missouri have handed down more than $5 billion in compensation to asbestos exposure victims.

An estimated 12,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits remain outstanding and some legal experts believe it could cost Johnson & Johnson as much as $20 billion to settle all the claims and avoid any further trials. A recent Reuters report detailed allegations that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc-based products, but did nothing to warn consumers about the risks, even going as far as to provide misleading information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1970s.

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