Three years ago, New Jersey couple Stephen Lanzo III and his wife Kendra, of Verona, NJ, were awarded $117 million in damages by a Superior Court jury. Mr. Lanzo developed mesothelioma. He has alleged that his cancer was caused by long-term, daily use of two Johnson & Johnson (J&J) products: talc baby powder and Shower to Shower.
Under the New Jersey Products Liability Act, the Lanzos filed suit against J&J and a company that supplied it with talc, Imerys. The suit claimed that the J&J products in question were contaminated with asbestos and J&J failed to disclose the risk that its talc-based products could contain the carcinogenic mineral.
Yesterday, an appeals court overturned the award and ordered a new trial.
My Central Jersey reported that towards the end of the trial, attorneys for the Lanzos asked the judge to impose sanctions on talc supplier, Imerys, because it failed to produce certain talc samples and test data. In addition, Imerys allegedly destroyed talc samples.
J&J faces approximately 25,000 talc powder cancer lawsuits. In October of last year, J&J announced it would settle approximately 1,000 talc lawsuits for $100 million.
According to My Central Jersey, as of May 2020, J&J’s track record in talc cases that have gone to trial is 12 wins, 15 losses and seven mistrials. All the losses have either been overturned on appeal or were in the appeal process.
In a 70-page decision, the appellate court court focused on J&J’s argument that it should have received a separate trial from its talc supplier, Imerys.
Both J&J and Imerys asked Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi to bar plaintiff expert witness testimony. Viscomi limited one Lanzos’ expert testimony but denied J&J and Imerys’ request for the other two witnesses.
The judge also refused the defendants’ request for a mistrial.
Mr. Lanzo was initially awarded $30 million in compensatory damages. Another $7 million was awarded to his wife. J&J was assigned 70% of the compensatory damages, by the jury.
Visomi then denied motions to dismiss the punitive claims. After evidence was presented, the jury awarded the Lanzos punitive damages of $55 million against J&J and $25 million against Imerys.
J&J also argued in the trial that the judge had allowed unreliable expert testimony. Therefore, the company argued, its defense was “undermined” by being denied a separate trial from Imerys. Another argument by J&J: the plaintiff’s evidence that his condition was caused by talcum powder was insufficient.
To read the full report, click here.