Latest J&J talc trial underway

Johnson's Baby PowderA new trial challenging Johnson & Johnson on the safety of its talc products is underway in Oakland, California. It is the first of over a dozen J&J talc cases scheduled for trial in 2019, according to Reuters.

On Monday a jury heard opening statements in the trial alleging that its talc-based products, including the company’s baby powder, were contaminated with asbestos and cause cancer

Lawyer Joseph Satterley, representing Terry Leavitt, accused J&J of knowingly selling a dangerous product, according to an online broadcast by Courtroom View Network.

“The evidence will show that J&J knew about the asbestos risk and they continued to sell the product, giving consumers no opportunity to protect themselves,” Satterley said.

A lawyer for co-defendant Imerys Talc America, a unit of French Imerys SA, said that the evidence would show that the talc is not contaminated with asbestos and that Leavitt’s mesothelioma (type of cancer involving the lining of the lungs) was not caused by the product.

A lawyer for J&J will make his opening remarks on Tuesday, Pacific Standard Time.

“Our talc is safe and does not contain asbestos. For decades, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder has repeatedly been tested and been found not to contain asbestos,” the company told Reuters.

Leavitt was born in the Philippines and claims she was exposed to J&J cosmetic talc from South Korea mines during the first two years of her life. Satterley said testing of Asian talc samples from the 1960s and 1970s by his own expert show Korean-mined talc tested positive for asbestos fibers, as has talc from U.S. sources.

J&J in court filings in the case said that fibers found in the Korean talc or any of its other cosmetic talc could not be classified as asbestos and referred to them as non-asbestos forms that its experts say are harmless.

Leavitt’s is the first talc case to go to trial since Reuters published a report claiming that the company knew about trace amounts of asbestos in its talc products for decades.

Reuters reports that in 11 similar talc cases thus far, three have resulted in wins for plaintiffs, awarding damages as high as $4.69 billion in a July 2018 multi-plaintiff ovarian cancer verdict. J&J won three of these cases and the other five ended in hung juries.

J&J has appealed all plaintiff verdicts and said it is confident the verdicts will be overturned.

The consumer goods giant is facing around 11,700 lawsuits over the talc issue.

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