In the largest Missouri talc ovarian cancer verdict, Lois Slemp was awarded $110 million by jurors who found Johnson and Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc. responsible for her ovarian cancer. There have so far been seven completed talc trials in three states, with six plaintiff wins and damages of $724 million. All of these have alleged that talc particles when used in the genital area can travel through the female reproductive tract to the ovaries where they cause inflammation that leads to ovarian cancer.
Slemp’s case was different from the other talc cases, which all accuse Johnson and Johnson’s talc-containing products of causing cancer, because her case also alleged that in addition to talc itself being carcinogenic, the company’s talc was contaminated with two other carcinogens — asbestos and heavy metals. Asbestos was found in Ms. Slemp’s ovaries.
Before the trial Jim Onder, a St. Louis attorney on the plaintiff’s legal team, spoke to Missouri Lawyers Weekly about Ms. Slemp’s unique set of facts that the St. Louis jury would have to consider. In spite of the fact that this was a defense pick, Onder said, “Generally speaking, our team is optimistic about that case, given that there was asbestos found in the ovaries and the fact that we know Johnson & Johnson has not been able to eliminate asbestos from its talcum powder.” The jury was convinced by the evidence and chose to deliver hefty punitive damages.
Johnson and Johnson is again accused of concealing the presence of asbestos in its talc products. Plaintiffs Tina Herford and Douglas Herford allege that Tina Herford’s mesothelioma, an asbestos-related lung cancer, was caused by Johnson and Johnson’s talc products, which she inhaled for decades during diaper changes and when she used the products for feminine hygiene.
Mesothelioma is a rare, usually fatal, cancer in the tissue lining the internal organs, most commonly the lungs and abdomen. After exposure to asbestos, it can be decades before the cancer develops.
Law360 reports that the trial, which began on Oct. 6 in California state court, was declared a mistrial before the start of the second day because Tina Herford mentioned during her testimony that she stopped using talc products when she heard rumors of their connection to ovarian cancer. Because this is a mesothelioma case, testimony about ovarian or uterine cancer had been barred. A new jury will be selected next week and the trial will continue.
“Only one of the previous J&J talc trials dealt with the issue of alleged presence of asbestos in products sold to consumers, so the Herford trial is likely to introduce a plethora of new details about the supply chain for J&J and Imerys talc products into the public record,” predicted Courtroom View Network in a recent article about the current trial.
The case is the first of its kind against Johnson and Johnson and Imerys to go to trial. However there have been trials against both cosmetic and industrial talc manufacturers over talc and mesothelioma. Courtroom View Network reports that the Herfords’ attorney is Chris Panatier of Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC. Panatier in 2015 won a similar case against Colgate-Palmolive with a verdict of $12.4 million.
Courtroom View Network