US Jury Rejects Talc-Cancer Claim – 6th Successful Defence and Counting

Last week, a US jury rejected the 6th product liability claim to submit that asbestos in talcum powder was the cause of a consumer’s mesothelioma, or ovarian cancer.[i]

A State Court in Louisville, Kentucky,[ii] heard that ex-travel agent, Donna Ann Hayes, had used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Colgate Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet Powder at various points in her life.

She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in her early 70’s and died of the asbestos-associated disease in 2016.

According to claimant-instructed experts, samples of Baby Powder and Cashmere Bouquet tested positive for asbestos, while mineral talc was also detected in the deceased’s lymph tissue. It was asserted, in the course of proceedings, that she had inhaled asbestos sourced in the products, which provided the metabolic pathway for late-onset mesothelioma.

However, both defendant manufacturers contended that Ms. Hayes’s cancer was caused by environmental factors, while defendant-instructed experts testified that the mineral talc ingredient was excavated from asbestos-free mines.

At the closing stages of the 2-week trial, on 2 August 2019, the jury delivered its verdict, clearing J&J and Colgate of liability.

Even though this constitutes J&J’s 6th win in a string of recent victories, there is no cause for real celebration. The latest securities filings state that the company is presently facing more than 15,000 lawsuits, which means that the litigation is still unpredictable and still very much in its infancy.

Nonetheless, J&J spokesperson, Kim Montagnino, welcomed the decision, stating that the business was ‘pleased the jury rejected the claim that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos and caused the plaintiff’s disease’.

 

[i] Jef Feeley, ‘J&J, Colgate Get Jury to Reject Claims Talc Fouled by Asbestos’ (3 August 2019 Bloomberg) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-02/j-j-colgate-get-jury-to-reject-claims-talc-fouled-by-asbestos> accessed 9 July 2019.

[ii] Hayes v. Colgate-Palmolive, 16-ci-03503, 30th Judicial District of Kentucky (Louisville).