Vermont Business Magazine The law firms of Levy Konigsberg LLPand Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PCannounced Wednesday a victory in the case ofStephen and Kendra LanzovJohnson & Johnson Consumer, Incand Imerys Talc America, Inc. The talc in questionwas sourced from Windsor, Vermont, which the plaintiffs maintain contained asbestos.
A jury inNew Brunswick, New Jersey, Wednesday afternoon awarded punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Incin the amount of$55 million, and against Imerys Talc America, Incin the amount of$25 million. This sum comes on the heels of another$37 millionin compensation the same jury awarded forStephen Lanzo'sasbestos mesothelioma.
After a three month trial, the jury found unanimously thatJohnson'sBaby Powder contained asbestos during the years ofStephen Lanzo'suse from 1972 to 2003 and that both Johnson Consumer, Incand Imerys Talc America, Inc. failed to adequately warn about this severe health hazard, and that Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inchad a safer design in cornstarch, which it sold as an alternative to its talc Baby Powder.
Co-lead counselMoshe Maimonsaid that the verdict was a result of newly revealed, confidential company documents: "We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Johnson & Johnson documents proving that Johnson & Johnson knew since the 1960's that the talc used in its baby powder contained asbestos, and that it could cause cancer. On behalf of the Lanzo family, we are proud that the jury has chosen to use its voice to send a message to these companies to put customer safety first."
This trial is notable, the lawyers maintain, because previous ovarian cancer verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for its talc Baby Powder have not involved allegations as to the Baby Powder's asbestos contents.
In a chilling account, the Lanzo's attorneys proved through the companies' internal documents that in 1969 Johnson & Johnson created "Project 101," in which its lead medical doctor identified the problem of asbestos in the talc used inJohnson'sBaby Powder, and warned that they could be facing litigation in "forty years" if Johnson & Johnson did not address this problem.
"Many of these confidential Johnson & Johnson documents were unsealed for the first time. They show that Johnson & Johnson had known for decades that there was asbestos-contamination in its Baby Powder," explained co-lead counselJoe Satterley.
At trial, a corporate representative for Imerys Talc America, Incadmitted that Imerys and its predecessor entities have known since the 1960's at the company's "highest levels" that asbestos exposure causes cancer.
In 1975, Imerys tested the Johnson & Johnson talc mines inWindsor, Vermont, and found asbestos. Yet despite this knowledge, Imerys later purchased theVermonttalc mines, and used these asbestos-contaminated mines to become the exclusive supplier of talc toJohnson'sBaby Powder inNorth America.
Imerys' internal documents show that Imerys fought off regulation of its talc sales by creating "confusion" with the regulatory agencies. In 2008, Imerys head of product stewardship made a monopoly board showing how Imerys creates a "License to Market" its talc. On this monopoly board, the various regulatory agencies such as the FDA and OSHA were substituted for the real estate properties like "Park Place" and "Boardwalk," and a skull and cross bones and "DANGER" were placed next to squares marked "Public perception" and "Litigation."
At the punitive damages phase of this trial, Imerys Chief Financial Officer testified that Imerys Talc America's Board had not yet met to discuss the$37 millionin compensatory damages awarded by the jury, and had not ceased selling its talc for use in cosmetic talc products such asJohnson'sBaby Powder.
Johnson & Johnson has been fending off many lawsuits related to its Baby Powder and asbestos, including winning an appeal last November after a $417 million award against it in California. SEERELATED STORY HERE.
On its Website, Johnson & Johnson states: "Since the 1970s, talc used in consumer products has been required to be asbestos-free, so JOHNSON’S® talc products do not contain asbestos, a substance classified as cancer-causing."
The Lanzos were represented at trial byMoshe MaimonofNew YorkandNew Jersey- based Levy Konigsberg, L.L.P. andJoseph SatterleyandDenyse Clancyof Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, P.C. ofOakland, California.
SOURCE NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.,April 11, 2018/PRNewswire/ --Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood