J&J Wins Talc Case Over Claims Product Tainted With Asbestos

(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson persuaded a jury to reject a woman’s claims that the company’s iconic baby powder is laced with cancer-causing asbestos in its first trial win in New Jersey litigation over the product.

Jurors in New Brunswick, New Jersey, deliberated less than a day before unanimously rebuffing Rosalind Henry’s claims J&J sold its baby powder knowing it was tainted with asbestos, a carcinogen, said Carol Goodrich, a company spokeswoman. The ruling follows two mistrials in California where jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on the same issue.

The win may help turn the tide of the talc litigation, which resulted in a $4.69 billion verdict against J&J in state court in St. Louis in July. Jurors there found 22 women’s cancers were linked to asbestos in talc products they used. Another jury in New Jersey ordered J&J in April to pay $117 million to an investment banker who blamed his asbestos-linked cancer on baby powder use.

The latest jury’s finding “is consistent with decades of clinical evidence and scientific studies by medical experts” confirming J&J’s baby powder doesn’t contain asbestos, said Kim Montagnino, a company spokeswoman.

J&J’s win “is a signal plaintiffs will have a tough time proving causation” going forward in the litigation over mesothelioma and ovarian cancer cases tied to the baby powder, Holly Froum, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said in an emailed statement.

The company still faces more than 10,000 lawsuits in which J&J officials are accused of having known more than 40 years ago that its baby powder was tainted with asbestos and hid that from consumers. A jury in New York is slated to consider the claims in another trial in November.

Henry’s trial was held in state court in New Brunswick -- less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from J&J’s headquarters. She said she used the baby powder on herself and her children for more than 10 years.

J&J’s lawyers argued Henry, a clerical worker, was exposed to asbestos in her workplace and that her cancer was caused by exposure to radiation during thyroid-cancer treatments. Her lawyers disputed the company’s alternative explanations for her illness.

Henry, 70, was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 68, her lawyers said in court. She was forced to undergo several surgeries and suffers from pain, shortness of breath and depression.

The case is Henry v. Johnson & Johnson, L-001748-17, New Jersey Superior Court (New Brunswick)

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