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Johnson & Johnson settles three cases of talc cancer

Johnson & Johnson has taken the unusual step of settling the claims of three women that its talc products caused their asbestos-related cancers rather than let juries decide the cases, potentially opening a new front in litigation rising against the world’s largest healthcare manufacturer. some products.

On Wednesday, jurors in Oklahoma City State Court spent about three hours determining whether J&J baby powder was a factor in the development of peritoneal mesothelioma in a 77-year-old woman when a judge ruled that the two parties had reached an agreement. Details of the deal were not made public.

On the same day, J&J also reached a confidential settlement that halted a lawsuit in Los Angeles regarding a 36-year-old woman’s claims that products she had used since childhood led to her mesothelioma, a cancer linked asbestos, and solved a similar new problem. The York case is due to go to trial next month.

“Unlike some pharmaceutical companies, J&J isn’t known for settling cases quickly, so solving three in close proximity may indicate that executives and lawyers view talc cases differently,” said Jean Eggen, a law professor at Widener University which teaches mass liability. case. “It looks like they’ve decided to cut their losses in some cases and move on,” she said.

Often, this kind of individual review will result in settlements.

Multiple colonies

J&J has denied any changes to its litigation strategy, saying there is no asbestos in its talc products and that it has not hidden the health risks of using it from consumers. baby powder.

“In litigation of any kind, there are ad hoc situations where settlement is a reasonable alternative,” J&J spokesperson Kim Montagnino said in an emailed statement. “We have no organized program to settle the affairs of Johnson’s Baby Powder, nor do we anticipate a settlement program,” she said.

The settlements add another layer of complexity to the company’s mixed record in the talc cancer cases it has fought in the United States. J&J prevailed at a trial in New Jersey on Wednesday, two weeks after a jury in Oakland, Calif., hit him with $29 million in damages. The company still faces more than 13,000 lawsuits accusing its talc products of causing mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. More than two dozen trials have been scheduled in US courts this year.

Several of the early trials have resulted in plaintiff verdicts, including a $4.69 billion victory in St. Louis in 2018 for 22 women with ovarian cancer. But J&J managed to win the knockdown of three of the top five jury prizes.

The cases that have been settled so far all involve mesothelioma. Patients generally do not live long after a diagnosis. The death rate and ties to past asbestos litigation also mean these claims are getting faster trial dates. Almost all talc trials planned for 2019 involve mesothelioma victims.

All of the women who settled the cases on Wednesday were represented by Dallas-based law firm Simon Greenstone Panatier, which persuaded a California jury last year to award $25.7 million to a woman who argued that her mesothelioma was from exposure to asbestos in baby powder.

Sharon Pipes, the Oklahoma plaintiff, was diagnosed in 2017 with peritoneal mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the abdomen. Experts have linked this disease to exposure to asbestos. She used Johnson & Johnson talc products for 50 years, her attorneys said at trial.

A juror told the court that the panel of 11 women and one man leaned towards J&J being responsible for its powders helping to cause Pipes’ cancer.

“We were one or two short of getting the nine votes needed for a verdict,” said juror Frances Harris, 65, a speech pathologist from Edmond, Oklahoma. Harris noted that she was among those who thought J&J should be held accountable for failing to warn of asbestos in some of its talcum powders.

“What convinced me were all the internal Johnson & Johnson documents,” she said. They said in their own words that they knew there was asbestos, but they kept saying they had zero tolerance for asbestos.

In the Los Angeles case, attorneys for Gail Koretoff told a jury in Santa Monica State Court on Monday that she developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos particles in baby powder and the company’s other talc products. J&J’s attorneys disputed that claim, saying years of testing found no carcinogens in the products.

The third settlement related to claims filed by Jenny Shulman, a 41-year-old woman also suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma. In her New York costume, Shulman blamed the use of J&J talcum powder for feminine hygiene for her exposure to asbestos.

The settlement came after J&J lost a bid to block a plaintiffs’ expert from testifying that he had found asbestos and talc in Shulman’s ovarian and uterine tissue. The trial was scheduled to begin April 9 in Manhattan state court.

Recent wins

The company has also won recent defense verdicts in cases alleging links between baby powder and mesothelioma, including Wednesday’s in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Some of the verdicts include awards against J&J’s talc supplier Imerys America, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

In the New Jersey case, the jury unanimously found that J&Js talc did not contain asbestos and was not responsible for plaintiff Ricardo Rimondi’s mesothelioma.

Rimondi was disappointed with the jury’s decision, especially in light of the overwhelming scientific and documentary evidence supporting claims that J&J’s talc products are contaminated with asbestos, said Monica Cooper, one of his attorneys. , in an e-mail message.