Dean J. Mcelroy cried when he told a California jury how his wife Teresa Leavitt was the life of the party, how she coached their daughters’ volleyball team even though she didn’t know how to play. He talked about how her outgoing personality complemented his reserved demeanor. “Terry saved me from a life of loneliness,” he said.
But in 2017, everything changed when Leavitt went to the doctor with back pain. He discovered a baseball-sized tumor in her chest. It was mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that develops in the lining of internal organs. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. “It really wrecked her,” Mcelroy said. “It was very, very hard. It was progressively hard. By the time she got to the end of the cycle it was terrible.”
Leavitt’s outgoing spirit was zapped. She now struggles to get out of bed, depressed at the realization she may not see her teenaged daughters grow up, get married, or have children of their own.
Mcelroy is the last witness to take the stand in the latest trial alleging Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was contaminated with asbestos and caused mesothelioma. The trial began Jan. 7. The case isn’t expected to go to the jury until March. Leavitt’s attorney told the jury that had Leavitt not gotten ill, she would have likely lived another 31.6 years, which translated to an economic loss of $1.2 million.
Johnson & Johnson faces thousands lawsuits alleging its talc causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Most cases claim the talc is contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos. Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, was also named in the lawsuit until last week, when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy citing more than 14,000 talc lawsuits in which the company faces.