Talc from Vermont costs Johnson & Johnson $117 million in mesothelioma case

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Talc from Vermont costs Johnson & Johnson $117 million in mesothelioma case

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 4:18am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The law firms of Levy Konigsberg LLP and Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC announced Wednesday a victory in the case of Stephen and Kendra Lanzo v Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc and Imerys Talc America, Inc. The talc in question was sourced from Windsor, Vermont, which the plaintiffs maintain contained asbestos. 

A jury in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Wednesday afternoon awarded punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc in the amount of $55 million, and against Imerys Talc America, Inc in the amount of $25 million. This sum comes on the heels of another $37 million in compensation the same jury awarded for Stephen Lanzo's asbestos mesothelioma.

After a three month trial, the jury found unanimously that Johnson's Baby Powder contained asbestos during the years of Stephen Lanzo's use from 1972 to 2003 and that both Johnson Consumer, Inc and Imerys Talc America, Inc. failed to adequately warn about this severe health hazard, and that Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc had a safer design in cornstarch, which it sold as an alternative to its talc Baby Powder.

Co-lead counsel Moshe Maimon said 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 in Johnson's Baby 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 counsel Joe Satterley.

At trial, a corporate representative for Imerys Talc America, Inc admitted 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 in Windsor, Vermont, and found asbestos. Yet despite this knowledge, Imerys later purchased the Vermont talc mines, and used these asbestos-contaminated mines to become the exclusive supplier of talc to Johnson's Baby Powder in North 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 million in compensatory damages awarded by the jury, and had not ceased selling its talc for use in cosmetic talc products such as Johnson's Baby 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. SEE RELATED 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 by Moshe Maimon of New York and New Jersey- based Levy Konigsberg, L.L.P. and Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, P.C. of Oakland, California. 

SOURCE NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., April 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood