A state court jury in California found Johnson and Johnson (J&J) and Colgate-Palmolive Co. liable for a California woman’s mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos in both J&J’s and Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder products. Plaintiff Patricia Schmitz, a 61-year old retired teacher, was awarded $12 million by the Alameda County jury after a trial that began on April 23. Schmitz was represented by Joseph Satterley, Denyse Clancy and Ian Rivamonte of Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood; J&J was represented by Alex Calfo, Troy McMahan and Cori Steinman of King & Spaulding LLP and Michael Battle and Sandra Ko of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Colgate was represented by Gary Sharp, Peter Mularczyk and Andrew Sharp of Foley & Mansfield PLLP.
The California jury’s finding is the latest in a series of verdicts against J&J and other co-defendants including supplier Imerys Talc America resulting from allegations that the companies’ talcum powder was contaminated with asbestos. In New York in May a jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $325 million, including $300 million in punitive damages after determining that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by J&J’s talc powder. In March, a jury awarded close to $29.5 million to a woman who developed mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos in J&J’s talc products; in a 2018 verdict in New Jersey, $117 million was awarded to a man who alleged he was exposed to asbestos in J&J’s talc powder throughout his lifetime.
J&J has maintained that its talcum powder is not contaminated with asbestos and there have been a number of verdicts finding in favor of the company, including a case in New Jersey in March in which the jury unanimously found that J&J’s powder did not contain asbestos and did not cause the plaintiff’s mesothelioma. There have been a number of hung juries and mistrials as well.