A New Jersey state judge rejected American International Industries (AII)’s motion to interview former jurors from a dismissed trial involving claims that the company’s Clubman talcum powder contained asbestos, which contributed to a hairdresser and customer’s cancer diagnoses.
The trial involving hairdresser Margaret Lashley and customer Dewayne Johnson began March 5. Lashley claimed she used AII’s Clubman talc on her customers for years while working in a barbershop from 1992 until 2016, when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
Johnson, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, claims he was powdered with Clubman talc during his haircuts from 1975 to 2016. Both Lashley and Johnson acknowledge they were exposed to talc from other sources like Johnson’s Baby Powder. Johnson says he was also exposed to asbestos while working construction as a teenager. But both Lashley and Johnson say exposure to Clubman was a major contributor to their cancers.
AII purchased the Clubman brand in 1987. Lashley and Johnson claimed that the company should have known then that the talc used in Clubman could become contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. AII stopped making Clubman talc in 2017.
The trial, however, was brought to a halt four days after it began due to COVID-19 shutdowns. At the time, plaintiffs were still presenting their case and AII yet to present its evidence. While the trial was suspended two jurors were excused because they said continuing on the jury would be a hardship for them. In May, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi declared a mistrial with both parties’ consent.
AII then filed a motion with Judge Viscomi to allow its attorneys and counsel for Lashley and Johnson to interview the former jurors based on the argument that the inquiries would provide valuable insight and would lead to a more efficient retrial.
Judge Viscomi denied the motion, saying that the company failed to show good cause. “Although the case here did not go to verdict, the principles are still the same and, regardless, AII has not demonstrated good cause in proceeding forward,” she said.
Beasley Allen lawyer Rhon Jones is looking at similar cases of industrial, occupational and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma as well as claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma. Beasley Allen’s Leigh O’Dell and Ted Meadows are handling claims involving ovarian cancer linked to use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene.