July 18, 2023 (Reuters) – A California jury has determined that Johnson & Johnson must pay $18.8 million to a local resident who claimed to have contracted cancer due to exposure to its talcum baby powder. This represents a significant blow to the company as it aims to resolve thousands of parallel cases regarding its talc-based products in U.S. bankruptcy court.
The jury sided with Emory Hernandez Valadez, who sought compensation from J&J through a lawsuit filed last year in a California state court located in Oakland. Hernandez, 24, alleges that he developed mesothelioma, a lethal form of cancer, in the tissue surrounding his heart due to prolonged exposure to the company’s talc since his childhood. This six-week trial represents the first talc-related lawsuit J&J, headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has faced in nearly two years.
Although the jury awarded Hernandez damages to cover his medical expenses and emotional distress, they refrained from imposing punitive damages against J&J. Hernandez is unlikely to receive the judgment anytime soon, as a bankruptcy court order currently freezes most litigation concerning J&J’s talc.
Erik Haas, J&J’s Vice President of Litigation, expressed the company’s intent to appeal the verdict in a statement, citing it as “incompatible with decades of independent scientific evaluations which verify that Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, asbestos-free, and non-carcinogenic.”
During their concluding arguments to the jury on July 10, J&J’s legal representatives stated there was no proof linking Hernandez’s type of mesothelioma to asbestos or showing that Hernandez had been exposed to contaminated talc. Hernandez’s attorneys accused J&J of a “detestable” coverup of asbestos contamination that spanned decades.
Hernandez testified in June, telling the jury that he would have refrained from using J&J’s talc if he had known about its alleged asbestos content. The jurors also heard from Hernandez’s mother, Anna Camacho, who testified to using J&J’s baby powder on her son extensively throughout his infancy and childhood, and tearfully recounted the hardships of her son’s illness.
Tens of thousands of plaintiffs have come forward alleging that J&J’s baby powder and other talc products sometimes contained asbestos, leading to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. J&J maintains that its talc products are safe and asbestos-free, though asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma.
J&J’s subsidiary, LTL Management, sought bankruptcy protection in Trenton, New Jersey, in April, proposing to settle over 38,000 lawsuits for $8.9 billion and prevent further cases from emerging. This marks the company’s second attempt to address talc-related claims through bankruptcy, following a federal appeals court’s rejection of their initial bid.
Although most legal actions have been suspended due to bankruptcy proceedings, U.S. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan permitted Hernandez’s trial to continue, given his limited life expectancy.
Hernandez’s type of mesothelioma is exceedingly rare, distinguishing his case from the vast majority of those pending against J&J.
Asbestos plaintiffs are seeking to dismiss LTL’s recent bankruptcy filing, arguing that it was initiated in bad faith to shield the company from litigation.
J&J and LTL counter that bankruptcy provides a more equitable, efficient, and fair way to distribute settlement payments to plaintiffs than trial courts, which they compare to a “lottery” in which some litigants receive large awards while others get nothing.
According to J&J’s bankruptcy court filings, the costs associated with its talc-related verdicts, settlements, and legal fees have amounted to approximately $4.5 billion.
The Process of Filing a Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Filing a talcum powder mesothelioma lawsuit is a complex process that typically involves several stages. It’s important to remember that each case is unique and thus the exact process can vary based on the specifics of the case, including the jurisdiction and the health status of the plaintiff. However, here’s a general outline of how these types of lawsuits usually proceed:
- Consultation with Our Attorneys: The first step is to consult with a personal injury or product liability attorney from our law firm. During this consultation, you will be able to discuss the details of your situation, including your exposure to talcum powder and your subsequent diagnosis. Our attorneys will evaluate the merits of your case and discuss potential next steps.
- Investigation: If our attorneys believe that you have a valid claim, we will begin an in-depth investigation into your case. This typically involves gathering medical records to confirm the diagnosis and studying the plaintiff’s history of talcum powder use. Your lawyer might also collect other types of evidence, such as testimonies from experts in the medical and scientific fields.
- Filing the Lawsuit: Once enough evidence has been gathered, the attorney will draft a complaint, which is the legal document that formally starts the lawsuit. This complaint will detail your claims against the defendant (for example, Johnson & Johnson) and request compensation for damages, which might include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Discovery: After the lawsuit has been filed and the defendant has responded, both parties will enter the discovery phase. During this time, both sides exchange information that pertains to the case. This may include depositions, interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), and document requests.
- Negotiations and Settlement: Many lawsuits are resolved before trial through a settlement. During negotiations, both sides’ attorneys will discuss potential settlement amounts. If an agreement can’t be reached, the case will proceed to trial.
- Trial: At trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments to a judge or jury. The judge or jury will then decide if the defendant is liable and, if so, how much compensation should be awarded to the plaintiff.
- Appeal: If the defendant loses, they may choose to appeal the decision to a higher court. If this happens, the process can extend for a significant period of time.
Throughout this process, your attorney will guide and advise you on the best course of action. If you believe you have a potential talcum powder mesothelioma lawsuit, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible due to the statute of limitations (the time limit you have to file a lawsuit after your diagnosis).
If you or a loved one used talcum powder products and have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, testicular cancer, or any other talc-related cancer, call Parker Waichman LLP for your free case review.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP FOR A FREE CASE REVIEW
Parker Waichman LLP helps families recover monetary compensation for harm caused by dangerous products like talcum powder. For your free consultation, contact our national product liability law firm today by using our live chat or calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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