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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.

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