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Articles Posted in Asbestos

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.

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 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.

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.

A collection of environmental groups recently filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over claims the agency’s reporting practices essentially create loopholes that allow companies to avoid acknowledging asbestos may be present in their products. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and four other groups filed their claim in U.S. District Court for the District of San Francisco, challenging the agency’s decision to allow exemptions to asbestos reporting rules.

In addition to challenging asbestos reporting rules, the plaintiffs also criticized the EPA’s denial of a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies that handle asbestos, essentially leaving the public in the dark about potential dangers of exposure. Despite federal regulators designating asbestos as a known carcinogen with no safe level exposure since the 1970s, there is still no outright ban on asbestos due to an Appeals Court ruling in the early 1990s.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim the lack of reliable data makes it especially difficult for the EPA to determine where asbestos is manufactured, processed, or imported in the United States which flies in the face of the agency’s duty to perform risk assessments for the mineral. In June 2017, the EPA released a scoping document identifying products that may contain asbestos but that document provides little if any information on the level of asbestos present, quantities imported, or nation of origin, according to the lawsuit.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson may be the sole defendant in an estimated 12,700 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits after its main talc supplier recently filed for bankruptcy under the weight of thousands of such cases across the country. Imerys Talc USA, which had supplied Johnson & Johnson with talc sourced from overseas mines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware federal court and was subsequently released as a defendant from a nearly two-month trial in California state court.

“After carefully evaluating all possible options, we determined pursuing Chapter 11 protection is the best course of action to address our historic talc-related liabilities and position the companies for continued growth,” Imerys Talc America President Giorgio La Motta said in a statement. Under the law, companies who file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy are protected from litigation, a move that allows the insolvent company to reorganize and determine the best way to settle claims with creditors.

Legal experts have speculated that after juries handed down multi-billion dollar verdicts in 2018, Imerys Talc USA essentially saw the writing on the wall and chose to insulate itself from potentially billions more in verdicts. In just a handful of trials last year, juries handed down a combined excess of $5 billion in plaintiffs verdicts, including a $4.7 billion award from a Missouri state court to 22 plaintiffs or their estates who claimed to have suffered serious health complications as a result of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson reportedly settled a talcum powder cancer lawsuit for the first time ever in early January. That case involved a New York woman who claimed her rare form of cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos in Johnson & Johnson products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. The $1.5 million settlement is the first of its kind for Johnson & Johnson, which as of yet vigorously defended several other similar claims against it.

The asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in New York state court, claimed that the 78-year-old plaintiff developed mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer, from years of exposure to asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit also accused Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier, Imerys Talc USA, of negligence for supplying the carcinogenic materials that the plaintiff claimed caused her illness.

“In litigation of every nature there are one-off situations where settlement is a reasonable alternative,” said J&J. “The decision to resolve any particular case in no way changes our overall position that our talc is safe, is asbestos free and does not cause cancer.” Johnson & Johnson is currently facing an estimated 11,700 other talcum powder cancer lawsuits across the country and has several trials scheduled for 2019.

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