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Articles Posted in Asbestos

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 federal judge in San Francisco recently allowed a lawsuit to continue against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging the agency fails to properly track how much deadly asbestos is imported, manufactured, and otherwise used in products in the United States. Several advocacy groups filed the asbestos lawsuit against the EPA in February 2019, challenging the agencies decision to allow certain exemptions to reporting rules for asbestos products, and the agency’s decision to deny a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies dealing in asbestos.

“EPA has greatly overstated its knowledge of asbestos use and exposure in the United States,” the advocacy groups, now plaintiffs, wrote in a letter to the EPA back in January 2019 in which they urged the agency to reconsider its decision. “This decision gives us the green light to press ahead with our suit to hold EPA accountable for refusing to require simple and straightforward reporting by the asbestos industry,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, one of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against the EPA.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the American Public Health Association, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. A spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group released a statement saying “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s efforts to keep the public in the dark about where and how asbestos is being used in this country is antithetical to what the American people should expect from the head of the EPA.”

A New Jersey Superior Court judge recently denied a motion by the defendant in a talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit which sought to set aide a multimillion dollar verdict handed down by a state jury to a group of plaintiffs who claimed they developed serious forms of cancer due to asbestos fibers in talc-based products produced by the defendant. That lawsuit claimed pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products for years, without any warnings to consumers about the known risks of asbestos exposure.

In September 2019, a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury handed down a $37.3 million verdict to four plaintiffs who claimed they developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of using talc-based products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, produced by Johnson & Johnson. That trial took place in the city of Brunswick, New Jersey, where Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters is located. The company faces thousands of other such lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.

Johnson & Johnson’s post-trial motion, which the judge recently denied, had asked the judge to set aside the trial court’s verdict on a multitude of legal grounds. However, that motion was denied by the judge on the grounds that the proceedings in the case had not yet concluded, as the jury’s $37.3 million award only included damages for lost wages, medical bills, other monetary damages, and pain and suffering. The case is set to enter a new phase relatively soon, as the jury will decide what, if any, punitive damages Johnson & Johnson will be required to pay the victims.

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in thousands of talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits recently asked a federal judge to allow additional supplementation in evidentiary proceedings following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) testing of talcum powder products. The judge’s ruling in these key evidentiary proceedings are expected to have a tremendous impact on how the thousands of cases in federal court against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson will play out over the coming months and years.

In October 2019, the FDA announced that samples taken from certain lots of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder tested positive for trace amounts of deadly asbestos fibers, prompting the company to issue a voluntary recall of an estimated 33,000 bottles of its iconic product. In the wake of those positive asbestos tests, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the FDA to obtain documents related to the lab tests, and asked Johnson & Johnson to provide discovery regarding the same materials.

Attorneys for the asbestos cancer victims have asked the New Jersey federal judge presiding over the key evidentiary hearings to allow the plaintiffs to include the additional information gathered in their legal briefs for the proceeding. Those proceedings, known as Daubert hearings, will decide which of the 39 expert witnesses named by both sides will be allowed to be presented to potential juries in the estimated 12,400 cases on the docket in federal courts across the country.

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.

The news continues to get worse for pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson this month after an analysis by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that one lot of Baby Powder produced in 2018 was contaminated with asbestos fibers, prompting a recall of 33,000 bottles of the product. The analysis that discovered the asbestos in Baby Powder was conducted on behalf of the FDA by an independent laboratory run by a scientist who Johnson & Johnson has hired as an expert witness in talcum powder cancer lawsuits against the company.

That paid witness is none other than Andreas Saldivar, laboratory director of AMA Analytical Services Inc, who has served as a litigation expert on several occasions for Johnson & Johnson since 2017 in cases brought by plaintiffs who claimed they developed various forms of cancer after years of using the company’s talc-based products. In May 2018, Saldivar testified in a deposition on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and stated that testing he performed on behalf of the FDA back in 2010 showed no evidence that Baby Powder contained asbestos fibers.

In 2019, Saldivar’s lab again began testing talcum powder on behalf of the FDA and in September it tested Baby Powder samples sent to it by federal safety regulators. The testing now presents a serious challenge to Johnson & Johnson of how to discredit a single positive test for asbestos while still maintaining the integrity of one of its expert witnesses. It remains unclear how this news will affect Johnson & Johnson’s litigation efforts moving forward, including whether the company will be more likely to settle the thousands of cases pending in state and federal courts.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson was recently hit with another class action talc lawsuit, this time in Canada, over claims that a pair of its talc-based products are responsible for the plaintiffs cancer diagnosis which devastated her life. The lawsuit is just another in the estimated 14,000 Johnson & Johnson faces across the United States and now Canada, over claims that the company knowingly sold talcum powder products contaminated with deadly asbestos fibers.

The talcum powder lawsuit seeks to name the plaintiff representative of a class action lawsuit to recover $11 million in general and punitive damages for the harm suffered due to Johnson & Johnson’s negligence. Johnson & Johnson has thus far consistently denied any of its products contain asbestos fibers and have vigorously defended similar claims brought by plaintiffs in the United States alleging the same as the Canadian plaintiff.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit filed in a Calgary, Canada claims court, the plaintiff developed ovarian cancer after years of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder products. Specifically, the plaintiff claims she used Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower from the ages of 13 to 36 years old, later undergoing a series of surgeries and a hysterectomy in the 1990s, which she attributes to asbestos in the product.

A New York City judge recently handed down an important ruling in a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by a former electrician who claims the defendant, a boiler manufacturer, caused his mesothelioma by exposing him to deadly asbestos fibers. The lawsuit names Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Burnham LLC as the defendant, alleging the company knowingly produced and shipped products that required after-market parts made with asbestos, specifically asbestos-cement used as an insulation for the equipment.

The plaintiff, now unfortunately deceased, claimed in his lawsuit that during his time as an electrician with his employer, Vanderlin Electrical Contractors, he frequently worked with boilers manufactured by Burnham LLC. The victim claimed that the units delivered by the defendant to his job site at Wesleyan College without the required insulation “jacket” and that insulation workers also on site had to mix asbestos cement to create the insulation needed to complete installation.

Furthermore, the plaintiff, in his sworn deposition testimony before his passing, recalled he was required to remove the very same asbestos insulation on the boilers in order to access valves on the boilers, and would breathe in the dust created during both the application and removal of the insulation. As a result of years of exposure to asbestos fibers in the course of working on boilers produced by Burnham LLC, the plaintiff claimed he developed mesothelioma cancer, a rare and deadly form of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure.

A California-based cosmetics company recently initiated a recall of four of its makeup products over asbestos-contamination concerns. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers are advised to immediately cease using four products produced by Beauty Plus Global Inc after testing  by the FDA revealed those items showed asbestos contamination. Those products in the company’s City Color makeup range are:

  • Matte blush (fuchsia);
  • Cosmetics timeless beauty palette;
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