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Articles Posted in Asbestos Containing Materials

An Illinois state appeals court recently upheld a substantial $4.6 million verdict in a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by a union pipefitter who worked with products manufactured by John Crane, Inc. during the 1950s. In its ruling, the First District Appellate Court determined the trial court was right to allow the plaintiff’s attorneys to present expert testimony showing the victim’s asbestos cancer diagnosis was a result of exposure to asbestos fibers while working with John Crane products.

In his lawsuit, the plaintiff testified that he suffered from significant asbestos exposure from valves and gaskets, including those manufactured by the defendant. At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that the products manufactured by John Crane were a substantial contributing factor to the victim’s mesothelioma cancer diagnosis. Defense attorneys harped on testimony by this expert for the plaintiffs in which he explained the nuances in the relationship between asbestos exposure and developing mesothelioma cancer.

Additionally, the defendant took issue with the jury instructions given to the panel to help them reach a decision during their deliberations. These jury instructions are a standard part of our judicial system and both inform the jury of the legal standards for reaching a verdict and how they must apportion responsibility in civil cases. John Crane’s attorneys had asked the judge to give the jurors specialized jury instructions pattered for the particular case, though the trial judge determined that the Illinois state pattern instructions were sufficient.

Johnson & Johnson’s long time talc supplier is reportedly shopping the sale of its North American talc operations after filing for bankruptcy under the weight of thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits in which the company was enjoined with the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant. Those lawsuits, which thus far have produced billions in plaintiffs verdicts, claim that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys produced and marketed talc-based products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower which contained deadly asbestos fibers and caused the victims’ debilitating and often fatal health conditions.

Among the assets up for supposed sale, Imerys is reported to consider selling strategic alternatives that could include the sale of business in North America as a whole. In February 2019, Imerys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing that the company was facing more than 14,000 lawsuits in the United States at the time. Reports stress that deliberations are still at an early stage and that no final decisions have been reached as of yet.

The reports are significant in that the proceeds from the sale of Imerys’ North American talc operations could be used to fund settlements of talcum powder cancer lawsuits, through some form of a trust. To do so, Imerys would ultimately need to negotiate with creditors, which would include insurers and those parties involved in asbestos cancer lawsuits.

The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform recently held a hearing examining health risks related to the use of talcum powder products containing asbestos, as well as the detection methods used to keep the public safe. The hearing comes on the heels of news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced had detected asbestos in one lot of pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and that the company would voluntarily recall 33,000 bottles of the product.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces an estimated 15,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country brought by plaintiffs claiming their serious medical conditions, including various forms of cancer, were caused by decades of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. Many of those lawsuits allege the plaintiffs developed mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer directly linked with exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers.

While talc itself does not contain asbestos, the two are both naturally occurring minerals which can often be found side by side one another, creating the possibility of cross contamination if precautions are not taken to protect innocent consumers. Despite federal laws requiring talc products to be asbestos-free, strong evidence exists that Johnson & Johnson continued to produce talc-based products that tested positive for asbestos.

A recent report by Reuters details troubling links between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson concerning efforts by safety advocates to conduct testing and provide warning labels to consumers about the potential risks of asbestos contamination in talcum powder products. The investigation details how, over decades, the FDA often relied upon testing or otherwise deferred to individuals linked to Johnson & Johnson when making determinations about the safety of the company’s talc-based products.

The special report shows that since the 1970s, federal regulators have deferred to Johnson & Johnson when independent scientists and researchers brought up concerns that talcum powder products may be contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos. When a line of cosmetics products tested positive for asbestos back in March 2019, the FDA noted “We are dependent on manufacturers to take steps to ensure the safety of their products.” Most recently, Johnson & Johnson conducted a voluntary recall of its iconic Baby Powder after the FDA found that the product tested positive for asbestos.

In chronicling the FDA’s deference to Johnson & Johnson, the report shows that federal regulators were concerned about asbestos fibers in talcum powder as far back as the 1970s, but quickly ended inquiries after assurances from companies using talc that their products were safe. Eventually, the role of monitoring and testing talc-based products fell to the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association after convincing the FDA that manufacturers were best suited to conduct oversight.

An Idaho jury recently awarded a 71-year-old Idaho woman $43.3 million verdict in a talcum powder mesothelioma cancer lawsuit alleging the defendant caused her condition by knowingly marketing its carcinogenic talc-based products. The lawsuit named New Jersey-based  pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson as the defendant, asserting that the company knew for decades about the risk of asbestos in its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower would post to consumers but provided no warning.

The Los Angeles jury deliberated for six days before reaching its verdict, agreeing with the plaintiff that her mesothelioma cancer was caused by talc-based products manufactured and sold by Johnson & Johnson. The verdict was a repudiation of positions taken by Johnson & Johnson and its attorneys which asserted that the victim’s cancer was not caused by asbestos exposure in talc, but rather due to atmospheric exposure while living in an industrial area of Los Angeles decades earlier.

The jury’s award included $1.2 million in economic damages which includes past and future medical expenses, $6.5 million for past noneconomic damages, $20 million for the plaintiff’s husband and $12.6 million for future noneconomic damages. Jurors were presented evidence that the victim’s cancer tissue contained both anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos, which are two forms of the mineral that have been confirmed to be in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder as well as their Shower to Shower product.

A New Jersey federal judge held key evidentiary hearings in coordinated pretrial proceedings covering thousands of asbestos talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson through the process of multidistrict litigation (MDL). Lawsuits involved in MDL allow both sides to conduct common discovery in cases to apply rules at trial which will apply at trial for all the individual cases, a procedure which may benefit both plaintiffs and defendants depending on the judge’s rulings.

Of particular importance to the pretrial MDL hearings in the asbestos cancer lawsuits are the expert witnesses identified by the plaintiffs to testify at trial. Those expert witnesses include biologists, physicians and epidemiologists who have concluded there is scientific evidence that talc use can cause ovarian cancer. Back in May 2019, Johnson & Johnson asked the federal judge overseeing the MDL process to exclude the opinions of 22 expert witnesses retained by the plaintiff on the grounds these individuals “they misapply scientific principles” and “engage in unsupported leaps of logic.”

Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have said in media interviews that an exclusion of some or all of the plaintiffs’ witnesses along with a judge’s ruling there is insufficient evidence of causation to present to any jury would wipe out the majority of the cases before they could see a courtroom. On the other hand, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have asked the judge to deny Johnson & Johnson’s request, arguing their expert witnesses are qualified and rely on sound methodologies to reach their opinions.

A popular young YouTube star and celebrity babysitter recently had her children’s-makeup line pulled from store shelves after testing by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed the products are contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos fibers. The FDA took to Twitter to announce, “Today, the FDA is releasing new results from its continued testing of cosmetic products for asbestos & is warning consumers to not use 2 additional products that have tested positive for asbestos & have been recalled.”

The FDA urged parents to be on the lookout for the makeup kits, which contain candy colored eyeshadow palette, two lip glosses, and nail polish, and has been on sale since March 2018 at Claire’s retail stores. The move comes just a few months after Claire’s was forced to recall other makeup products after media investigations found those makeup lines also contained asbestos and other toxic substances.

Asbestos is a deadly cancer-causing mineral once used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications because of its heat-resistant properties and ability to be molded into almost any shape to fit the job. While the federal government has heavily regulated asbestos since the 1980s to the point that is still used, thousands of people suffer the after-effects of asbestos exposure every year.

Reports recently surfaced that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether or not pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson new about the risks its talc-based products posed to consumers but chose not to warn the public. The criminal probe comes as Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits in civil courts across the country brought by plaintiffs who claim they developed various forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, from using the company’s talcum powder products.

A federal grand jury in Washington state is currently examining internal company documents related to what Johnson & Johnson knew about the presence of asbestos fibers or other carcinogens in its talcum powder products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. While talcum powder products make up only a small part of the company’s sales, they nonetheless have been a core brand for Johnson & Johnson for over a century.

Johnson & Johnson had disclosed to shareholders in February that the company received subpoenas from the Justice Department but those documents did not mention a grand jury had been convened nor whether the matter was of a criminal or civil nature. In response to the developments, Johnson & Johnson executives released a statement saying, “We have been fully cooperating with the previously disclosed DOJ investigation and will continue to do so. Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer, as supported by decades of independent clinical evidence.”

A California state jury is slated to hear opening arguments in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit filed against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company knew for decades about the health risks associated with its talc-based products. The asbestos cancer lawsuit names Johnson & Johnson and its supplier, Imerys Talc USA, as defendants and seeks compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and the pain and suffering of living with the mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.

According to the talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Alameda County California Superior Court, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma from years of using asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products developed and manufactured by Johnson & Johnson with materials sourced by Imerys Talc USA. The lawsuit claims that despite knowing for decades about the health risks of asbestos exposure from tainted talcum powder, Johnson & Johnson continued to market and sell these same products without any warning labels for consumers.

The trial is the first one of this type scheduled this year against Johnson & Johnson and the first since a report by Reuters which showed that the company knew about positive asbestos tests on its talcum powder sourced by Imerys USA. That report looked at thousands of pages of internal Johnson & Johnson company files that showed both company tests and those conducted by outside labs confirmed the presence of potentially deadly levels of asbestos in its talc supply.

A recent report by Reuters claims that pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contaminating its talc-based products, but did nothing to warn consumers about the dangers of exposure to the deadly carcinogen. Those claims come after the news outlet examined thousands of pages of internal company documents going back to the 1970s through the early 2000s that show Johnson & Johnson withheld information about asbestos from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the article, Johnson & Johnson’s first recorded knowledge of potential asbestos contamination in its talc comes from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab describing contaminants in its products from the supplier. Those contaminants were described by the consulting lab as fibrous and acicular tremolite, one of the six-naturally occuring forms of asbestos.

Over the next several decades, other reports by Johnson & Johnson’s own scientists, outside consulting labs, and suppliers would show similar findings, including one identifying contaminants in the talc as “fiberform” and “rods.” Despite these obvious red flags, Johnson & Johnson chose not to put any warning labels on its talc-based products and allowed its potentially deadly items to remain on the market.

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