J&J Jury Fails to Reach Verdict in Cancer Suit Tied to Talc

(Bloomberg) -- A South Carolina judge declared a mistrial in a case against Johnson & Johnson alleging that exposure to asbestos in its Johnson’s Baby Powder caused a woman’s fatal cancer.

Jurors in Darlington County state court were unable to reach a unanimous decision on Friday in the case brought by the husband of Bertila Boyd-Bostic, according to Judge Jean Toal. The judge said she didn’t know when a retrial would take place.

Boyd-Bostic, 30, and her husband ran a three-person law firm in Columbia, South Carolina. The woman died of mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Her husband alleged it was caused by trace amounts of the mineral in baby powder she used regularly.

“We continue to believe that the daily use of talcum powder on Bertila from birth led to her death,” lawyers for Boyd-Bostic at Motley Rice LLC said in a statement. “She ultimately wanted to share her story with others through her suit,” they said. “We look forward to retrying this case at the earliest opportunity.”

J&J denies that its baby powder contains carcinogens.

The company faces a growing number of claims from people alleging they developed cancer as a result of exposure to trace amounts of asbestos in the product. More than 9,000 plaintiffs have made such claims, primarily connecting talc to ovarian cancer, according to a May securities filing for the company. J&J didn’t break out the number of ovarian cancer cases versus the number of mesothelioma cases allegedly tied to talc.

A California jury hit J&J this week with a $25.7 million verdict tied to a 68-year-old woman’s claim her cancer was caused by baby powder use. Juries in state court in St. Louis in 2016 and 2017 found J&J liable in four separate trials on women’s claims their baby powder use caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The first, for $72 million, was erased on appeal on jurisdictional grounds. The others are on appeal. J&J also won reversal of a $417 million ovarian cancer verdict in California awarded in 2017.

“We’re disappointed the jury did not reach a unanimous verdict for Johnson & Johnson,” Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an emailed statement. “The talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos which is supported by more than 50 years of independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations.”

The case is Bostic v. 3M Co., 17-CP-16-0400, Court of Common Pleas for the County of Darlington, South Carolina (Darlington).

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