By Georgia D. Koutouzos, J.D.
Mesothelioma victim wasn’t exposed to asbestos in baby powder, the jury unanimously found.
A New Jersey state-court jury exonerated personal care product giant Johnson & Johnson of liability related to a man who had developed malignant mesothelioma due to his decades-long exposure to asbestos-containing products, including talc-based baby powder. In a unanimous verdict favoring the company, the jury concluded that the ailing man failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he had been exposed to asbestos from J&J’s baby powder (Rimondi v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., March 27, 2019, Judge, J.).
A man who had been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 2016 as the alleged result of his exposure to asbestos from products containing that substance over a 50-year period filed suit in New Jersey state court the following year against dozens of manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson and its personal care division, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (J&J), as well as other, so-called "talc defendants," i.e., companies that manufactured and sold cosmetic talc-containing products contaminated with asbestos.
Among the ten causes of action asserted in his complaint were claims for negligence, negligence per se, breach of warranty, strict liability—manufacturing and design defect, fraudulent misrepresentation, and loss of consortium. Demanding a jury trial, the ailing man sought compensatory damages, punitive damages, and costs.
With respect to the negligence and products liability claims, the plaintiff alleged that J&J and others mined, milled, processed, imported, converted, compounded, designed, manufactured, marketed, supplied, distributed, sold and/or otherwise placed in the stream of commerce asbestos-containing cosmetic and/or personal hygiene products to which he had been exposed.
In addition, J&J participated in a conspiracy with one or more co-conspirator defendants, he maintained, asserting that the companies had a duty to produce, market, and sell products that were not unreasonably dangerous or defective when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. The defendants also had a duty to warn consumers of the known hazards and defects in the products, and should have known, that the use of their products would release asbestos, thereby creating a dangerous and unreasonable risk of injury to users and others coming into contact with that hazardous substance.
The case went to trial, after which the jury returned a unanimous verdict concluding that the man did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he had been exposed to asbestos from J&J’s baby powder. The "no" answer to that first question on the verdict sheet obviated the need for the jury to respond to any of the remaining questions related to manufacturing defect, design defect, and failure to warn, or to award any damages to the plaintiff and his spouse.
The case is No. MID L-002912-17.
Attorneys: Monica Cooper (The Lanier Law Firm PLLC) for Ricardo Rimondi. Allison Brown (Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP) for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.
Companies: Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.
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