J&J Trial Over Cancer Tied to Baby Powder Deadlocked Again

(Bloomberg) -- A South Carolina jury failed to reach a verdict in the second trial of a lawsuit claiming Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused a rare cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Judge Jean Toal ordered a mistrial Thursday evening after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked 11-1 in the lawsuit brought by the husband of lawyer Bertile Boyd-Bostic, who died at age 30 of mesothelioma. The first trial on the claim in May also ended with a hung jury.

Boyd-Bostic’s husband argued J&J knew in the 1970s its talc products contained the carcinogen and failed to warn the public to protect its iconic brand. He sought more than $62 million in damages over his wife’s death. J&J denies its baby powder has ever been tainted with asbestos.

“We look forward to a new trial to present our defense, which rests on decades of independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations, none of which have found that Johnson’s Baby Powder contains asbestos,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

The mistrial comes on the heels of a California jury’s decision Wednesday to reject a woman’s claims that asbestos-laced baby powder caused her mesothelioma. The panel found
plaintiff Carla Allen was exposed to baby powder fouled by asbestos, but that wasn’t a “substantial factor” in causing her cancer.

Toal, the retired chief judge of the South Carolina Supreme Court, sent jurors back to deliberate several times Thursday after they said they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. She’s been assigned to oversee talc cases in the state’s courts. Darlington County court clerks wouldn’t comment on which side was favored in the 11-1 split.

Toal implored attorneys for both sides to reach a settlement, but Motley Rice attorney John Herrick said an accord was highly unlikely given J&J’s refusal to resolve other cancer suits targeting its baby powder.

“They’ve made it very clear to us and everyone else that they have a corporate policy not to pay baby powder asbestos cases, ” Herrick said in an interview.

The case is Antoine Bostic v. Johnson & Johnson, 2017-CP-16-0400, Court of Common Pleas for Fourth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina (Darlington).

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