(April 5, 2018) A New Jersey jury today hit Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier with a $37 million judgment over claims from a man who said he developed mesothelioma after using J&J’s asbestos-containing talcum powder over several decades.
In a trial that lasted more than two months, jurors sided with plaintiff Stephen Lanzo, III and his wife. The jury found that J&J’s products, including its baby powder, contained asbestos. Further, it found that Mr. Lanzo’s exposure to asbestos since the 1970s played a substantial role in his contracting mesothelioma, a deadly disease.
The jury awarded compensatory damages of $30 million to Mr. Lanzo, $7 million to his wife, Kendra. They held Johnson & Johnson 70 percent responsible for the damages, its talc supplier – Imerys Talc America Inc. – 30 percent responsible.
Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi asked the jury to return on Tuesday, April 10, for a punitive damages phase in the case.
$37M Asbestos Talc Verdict against J&J
In closing arguments, attorneys for Mr. Lanzo and his wife, Kendra, and defense lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and Imerys, strongly disagreed over the nature of tests performed by J&J.
A J&J attorney had claimed that the testing Johnson & Johnson and others did on J&J talc never turned up asbestos in either J&J’s talc mines or in its products on store shelves. He said the plaintiffs may have presented studies showing certain minerals in J&J’s talc, but they didn’t have evidence that those minerals were asbestos. He told the jury as much in his closing argument Monday.
In stark contrast, Mr. Lanzo’s attorney countered on Tuesday in his closing argument that the company’s talcum powder contained asbestos for years. He claimed J&J hid that fact from consumers and regulators by using tests that it knew would fail to detect the toxic mineral.
“They came up with the method that was never going to find the asbestos that was there,” he told jurors, “so they could certify that they looked and never found it.”
The jury apparently believed the plaintiff’s version of J&J’s testing.
J&J won one similar lawsuit against the company last year, but it faces many more in which plaintiffs claim they’ve suffered mesothelioma from long exposure to J&J talcum powder products.