J&J Baby Powder maker wins California lawsuit over cancer claim

Nate Raymond, Reuters

Posted at Nov 17 2017 06:55 AM | Updated as of Nov 17 2017 07:49 AM

A California jury on Thursday ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman who said she developed the cancer mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the company's talc-based products including J&J's Baby Powder.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury's verdict came in the first trial centering on claims that J&J's talc products contained asbestos. J&J is separately battling thousands of cases claiming those products can also cause ovarian cancer.

The verdict came in a lawsuit by Tina Herford, who said she developed mesothelioma after using J&J talcum powder products that her lawyers claimed contained asbestos.

Reuters watched the verdict through an online broadcast by Courtroom View Network. The jury also found in favor of talc supplier Imerys Talc.

J&J in a statement welcomed the verdict. J&J said it believed that setbacks dealt to individuals pursuing ovarian cancer cases had "forced plaintiff attorneys to pivot to yet another baseless theory."

"Johnson's Baby Powder has been around since 1894 and it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma or ovarian cancer," J&J said.

Chris Panatier, Herford's lawyer, in an email cautioned against reading too much into a single verdict.

"It is a matter of time before juries begin holding them to account," he said.

The verdict came as a federal jury, separately, ordered J&J to pay $247 million to six patients who said they were injured by defective Pinnacle hip implants.

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer closely associated with exposure to asbestos. It affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities, most often around the lungs, but also in the abdomen and elsewhere.

Herford's lawyers contended that internal J&J documents showed the New Jersey-based company for decades was aware of the presence of asbestos in the talc that was used in its products but kept selling them anyway.

J&J faces lawsuits by around 5,500 plaintiffs nationally asserting talc-related claims, largely based on claims it failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer from the products.

In 5 trials in Missouri involving ovarian cancer lawsuits, juries found J&J liable 4 times and awarded the plaintiffs $307 million. In California, a jury awarded a now-deceased woman $417 million.

But in October, J&J scored major victories when a Missouri appellate court threw out the first verdict there for $72 million and a California judge tossed the $417 million verdict.

The case is Herford et al v. AT&T Corp et al, Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC646315.