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Articles Posted in Asbestos Containing Materials

A Virginia federal court recently denied a defendant asbestos company’s bid to dismiss maritime law claims brought by the estate of a deceased plaintiff who claimed the victim developed mesothelioma through years of using carcinogenic asbestos products produced by the defendant. In its decision, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that U.S. admiralty law does in fact apply to the case and the matter may proceed based on the allegations of fact there in.

The plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit alleged that during his service in the United States Navy, the victim worked for years doing shipbuilding and repair using asbestos-laden parts manufactured and sold by John Crane, Inc. The plaintiff’s estate elected to file the asbestos cancer claim under U.S. maritime law because his injuries occurred on navigable waters of the country, and therefore entitled to additional benefits and compensation under such statutes.

Court filings indicate that John Crane, Inc. did not necessarily contest that its products in question contained asbestos, or that they may have necessarily caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Instead, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff’s case should be tried under Virginia state law, as they claimed any injuries the plaintiff suffered occurred while the ships he was working on were docked in ports in the state. John Crane, Inc. further argued that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma diagnosis was due to “asbestos work,” which would make it an inappropriate claim to bring under U.S. maritime law.

A New York asbestos court recently struck down a motion by defendants in an asbestos cancer lawsuit which has sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiff was a smoker who otherwise ignored health warnings on the packages of cigarettes he smoked. In its decision, the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York soundly rejected the desperate attempt by defendants Viacom Inc. and General Electric Company to avoid liability for the alleged negligence that the plaintiff’s estate claims was directly responsible for the victim’s mesothelioma diagnosis.

The crux of Viacom and General Electric’s motion for summary judgment was that since now deceased plaintiff was a longtime smoker who did not heed the warnings placed on cigarette packages he smoked, the victim therefore would have ignored any warnings the companies would have, but did not, place on their own allegedly carcinogenic asbestos products. In response, the plaintiff’s estate argued that he had not been aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes when he started his habit, but tried repeatedly to quit once he learned of the health risks.

In its decision, the New York Supreme Court called the defendants’ argument “speculative” and that the question of the victim’s credibility to his claims must be left to a jury to decide. The court further found another motion brought by defendants to dismiss claims for punitive damages as unpersuasive, leaving open the possibility that a jury could ultimately award additional damages should they find the companies’ conduct rose to the standards which would warrant such additional compensation.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson has announced that the company will cease sales of talc-based Baby Powder in the United States and Canada, calling it a “commercial decision” to wind down sales in those markets. Johnson & Johnson’s cornstarch based Baby Powder will continue to be sold in North America, which the company claims accounts for three-quarters of all the sales of its iconic cosmetic product, but that the talc-based version will continue to be distributed to overseas markets. While cornstarch-based sales dominate North American sales, overseas consumers overwhelmingly purchase the talc-based formula.

According to the company’s chairman of its North America consumer branch, Johnson & Johnson will continue to sell its existing inventory through retailers until the product runs out. Although Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder accounts for less than 1% of the company’s overall sales, which have seen sharp declines over the past few years, the product is one of the company’s flagship items and has been used by millions of individuals for many decades.

While Johnson & Johnson may publicly state that its move to discontinue sales of talc-based Baby Powder in North America may be a market driven decision, the truth may actually be that the company is finally feeling the pressure of the 20,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits it is facing. Those claims allege that Johnson & Johnson acted negligently when it failed to provide warnings to consumers about the risks of using its talc-based cosmetics products, and that the company knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

The long-time talc supplier for one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical and cosmetics giants recently agreed to settlement terms in its bankruptcy proceedings, which would effectively forfeit all of the supplier’s North American assets. The terms of the agreement call for France-based Imerys SA to auction off all of Imerys Talc America, Imerys Talc Vermont, and Imerys Talc Canada and have the assets placed into a trust that would compensate victims who claimed the company caused their debilitating asbestos cancer conditions.

Imerys Talc USA declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in February 2109 under the weight of an estimated 14,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits in which the company was enjoined with Johnson & Johnson. Until that filing, Imerys Talc USA had for decades supplied talc to Johnson & Johnson, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based cosmetics company that produces the iconic Baby Powder and other talc-based products.

Reports from January 2020 indicate that Imerys Talc USA had been shopping its operations for outright sale. With its Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing, Imerys Talc USA was able to consolidate all of the pending lawsuits in state and federal courts in front of a single judge and remove itself from potentially millions, if not billions, of dollars in liability, which Johnson & Johnson still faces.

Johnson & Johnson recently agreed to a tentative settlement in a Connecticut talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by a plaintiff who claims he developed cancer as a result of decades of using talc-based products produced by the company. The settlement is a rare move on the part of the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant, which has taken the position to aggressively fight asbestos cancer lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products were the cause of various forms of cancer, including mesothelioma.

According to the talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Superior Court of Bridgeport, the plaintiff claims he developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit also named other defendants that manufactured or sold products contaminated with asbestos which were contributing factors in his mesothelioma diagnosis.

Johnson & Johnson had previously attempted to have itself removed from the lawsuit and its part of the case remanded to a federal court after its long-time talc supplier Imerys Talc USA and co-defendant in the case filed for bankruptcy. That action, which has been a strategy of Johnson & Johnson to remove itself from state courts, was unsuccessful, and the company was forced to remain enjoined with the other defendants named in the lawsuit.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson recently agreed to a settlement in a talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by a woman who claims her rare form of cancer was caused by decades of using the company’s cosmetics products. While the terms of the settlement were not immediately clear, the resolution is nonetheless significant because Johnson & Johnson has settled very few lawsuits brought by plaintiffs alleging similar claims against the company.

According to the talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in a Manhattan New York Supreme Court, the 62-year-old plaintiff developed mesothelioma from decades of using Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder product. The plaintiff claimed she developed mesothelioma from carcinogenic asbestos fibers contained within the talcum powder and that Johnson & Johnson knew for years about the risk of contamination in its talc-based products but provided no warning to consumers.

The settlement was reached in the judge’s chambers just before attorneys for both sides were to commence with their opening statements in the trial. Thus far, Johnson & Johnson has chosen to litigate and defend to trial most of the talcum powder cancer lawsuits brought against it in state courts across the country and has chosen to resolve very few before or during trial. Many of those trials have resulted in significant verdicts on behalf of the plaintiffs who claimed they developed various forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, from years of using talc-based products, like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, contaminated with asbestos fibers.

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.

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