A New Jersey federal judge recently handed down an order indicating that the court will randomly select 1,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits to proceed as bellwether trials for the estimated 16,000 total of such cases currently pending before federal courts. The order comes just a few months after the same judge handed down an important ruling which allowed the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses to present evidence at trial showing that defendant Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused the victims’ cancers.
Per the judge’s order, the plaintiffs in the selected cases will have three months to order and produce medical records related to their cancer diagnoses. Further, the records produced must be served to the defendants within that same 90-day period.
The lawsuits accuse pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson of knowingly manufacturing and selling asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products to consumers without any warnings about the health effects of using the products. Such talcum powder products include Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Until recently, Johnson & Johnson’s longtime talc supplier Imerys Talc USA was named to many of the lawsuits but the company has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
In total, Johnson & Johnson faces an estimated 19,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country in state and federal courts, with some producing substantial verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs. Thus far, juries in state courts have handed down billions of dollars in compensation to dozens of plaintiffs, including over $2 billion from a Missouri court in which the state supreme court upheld the verdict.
Likely under the weight of the thousands of lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson announced it would no longer sell Baby Powder with talc as an ingredient, at least in North America. Following suit, other cosmetics companies have quietly either removed talc from their products’ ingredients or begun to look into alternatives for the mineral.
Both talc and asbestos are natural minerals and are often found in deposits near each other. When talc sourcing companies or those processing the mineral fail to take precautions or properly test for asbestos contamination, innocent consumers may be put at serious risk of developing various forms of cancer due to exposure to the carcinogen. One of the most serious health conditions associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that commonly affects the lungs and thin linings of tissue surrounding vital organs such as the heart and abdomen. While federal regulations have banned the inclusion of asbestos in talcum powder products for decades, the lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson had known for years that its products still contained asbestos but chose not to warn consumers.
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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.