April 11, 2018 – Two of the MesoLawyersCare law firms, working together for our deserving mesothelioma client, won a historic victory today in New Jersey state court against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. (“J&J”), and Imerys Talc America, Inc. (“Imerys”), a supplier of the talc. The jury unanimously found that Steve Lanzo’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos in Johnson’s talc baby powder and Shower to Shower products. The trial proceeded in two phases: the liability and punitive damages phase. Last week, after a three-month trial, the jury awarded $37 million dollars to compensate Steve and Kendra Lanzo for their damages resulting from Mr. Lanzo’s mesothelioma. Today, the jury awarded an additional $80 million dollars in punitive damages, consisting of $55 million against J&J and $25 million against Imerys.
Both J&J and Imerys continue to claim that their talc never contained asbestos. However, the jury rejected this argument, unanimously finding that Mr. Lanzo breathed in asbestos from his use of J&J’s talc powders. In its verdict, the jury also decided unanimously that both defendants failed to adequately warn about the health hazards of asbestos in their talc. The jury was also asked to decide whether Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower were “defective” products as the result of being unreasonably dangerous. The jurors all agreed that the products were defective because it contained asbestos and J&J had a safer feasible alternative design (corn starch) that they could have sold instead of its talcum powder. The MesoLawyerCare attorneys devoted themselves to the Lanzo family and this cause in order to win this important victory. The team of MesoLawyersCare attorneys presented a large number of previously confidential corporate documents regarding asbestos in talc for the jurors to view and consider in deciding the case.
This trial was the first mesothelioma case in which J&J has been held responsible for asbestos in its baby powder talc products. There have been previous verdicts against J&J in ovarian cancer cases, but those cases have not centered around the presence of asbestos in the talc and did not involve mesothelioma. The documents unsealed in court, which came from the defendants’ confidential files, dated back to the 1960s and 1970s. These documents showed that the companies knew that there was asbestos in the talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder, but failed to provide any warnings to customers about this severe hazard. The jury was also shown documents showing that J&J could have replaced its talc baby powder with a safer alternative (corn starch) but failed to do so because of marketing and litigation concerns. One of the documents from 1977, indicated that J&J had done market testing showing that most customers preferred corn starch baby powder (a substance that is 100% asbestos-free).
The United States government has never regulated cosmetic talc powder products. The companies instead “self-regulated” and opted to primarily use a test method that they knew lacked the sensitivity needed to identify asbestos in talc. In the 1990s and 2000s, additional testing and correspondence put J&J on notice that there was asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder. One of these reports, from the 1990s, was a published article that identified a talc sample as “Sample I” that contained asbestos fibers. It was not until litigation with J&J in 2017, that it was revealed that J&J had documentation that “Sample I” (which contained asbestos) was Johnson’s Baby Powder, purchased off-the-shelf in the 1990s.
Evidence was introduced at trial showing that, in 2008, Imerys’ head of product stewardship made a monopoly board called “License to Market” for selling talc. On this monopoly board, a skull and cross bones and “DANGER” were placed next to squares marked “Public perception” and “Litigation”.
At the punitive damages phase of this trial, Imerys’ Chief Financial Officer testified that Imerys Talc America’s Board of Directors had not discussed making any changes as a result of the jury’s finding that there was asbestos in the company’s talc. J&J did not have a corporate representative testify during the punitive damages phase of the verdict.
The dedicated lawyers and staff from all the MesoLawyersCare law firms are proud to announce this important verdict for the Lanzo family. We are also hopeful that our victory in this case will help others diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos from dangerous talcum powder products, and that these companies will stop using talc in baby powder and body powder products.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact us so that we can see if MesoLawyersCare can help you. Our firms have collectively recovered over $10 billion dollars for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. As this verdict shows, we are willing to take on powerful corporations to get our clients the justice they deserve. You can contact us today by calling the phone number on this page, typing into the “live chat” with one of our representatives now, or filling out the form on this page.