J&J Talc Cancer Case Ends in Mistrial With Divided Jury

(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson’s latest trial over claims that its baby powder causes cancer ended in a stalemate when jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict.

A state judge in Pasadena, California, declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deadlocked on Carolyn Weirick’s request for at least $25 million in damages over her mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Weirick said she developed the disease from asbestos-laced baby powder.

In the last case to go to trial, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.69 billion in July to more than 20 women who blamed baby powder for their cancers. J&J is appealing.

"After five or six days of deliberations following weeks of hearing evidence, the jury still found that the plaintiffs couldn’t carry their burden of proof on the very fundamental question of whether Johnson & Johnson had acted negligently, which I think fits with the fact that people have been using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for over a century with no problem,” Christopher Vejnoska, one of the company’s lawyers, said Monday. “I think that the jury’s result we got is consistent with that fact.”

A lawyer for the plaintiff declined to comment on the mistrial. The world’s largest health-care products maker faces more than 10,000 other suits claiming its baby powder caused cancer.

Weirick, 59, is a school counselor who said she’s been using J&J’s talc products, such as baby powder and the company’s former Shower-to-Shower line, for more than 40 years. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017 and said her only exposure to asbestos came from use of talc products.

During the trial, Weirick’s lawyers told jurors that when they tested baby powder found in her home, they found 11 asbestos fibers in it, enough to have caused her cancer.

J&J hasn’t taken responsibility for the asbestos found in its product and has broken trust with consumers, Jay Stuemke, one of her lawyers, said in closing arguments. “We can’t trust that these companies have done the testing they should have done or even the testing they’ve claimed to have done,’’ Stuemke said.

‘Science, Not Speculation’

J&J’s lawyers deny the company’s products have ever contained asbestos and said it’s difficult to pinpoint the causes of cancer. The case should be about “science, not speculation,’’ Vejnoska said in closing arguments.

Lawyers for J&J and Weirick agreed the counselor has suffered about $1.2 million in actual damages over her cancer claims. Stuemke asked jurors in closing arguments for more than $25 million in compensation for past and future pain and suffering.

J&J’s talc supplier, a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA, settled Weirick’s claims as the trial came to a close. The amount of the settlement hasn’t been made public. Imerys also settled the St. Louis case that generated the $4.69 billion verdict, paying at least $5 million to resolve the claims against it, according to people familiar with the matter.

The case is Weirick v. Brenntag North America, BC656425, California Superior Court for Los Angeles County (Pasadena).

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