Johnson & Johnson has a new defense team as it enters the punitive damages phase of a case brought by four people who accused the company’s talcum powder of being tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, which caused them to develop mesothelioma. In September, a separate jury ordered J&J to pay the plaintiffs $37.7 million in compensatory damages.
The new round of defense attorneys for Johnson & Johnson wouldn’t comment on the change. An attorney who handled the trial proceedings for J&J during the September compensatory damages phase had her entire closing arguments stricken by Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi, who said the lawyer “denigrated” plaintiffs’ counsel by calling them “sinister,” and “attacking the profession.”
According to the transcript, Judge Viscomi said, “What could have been a good closing statement commenting upon the evidence was unfortunately replete with conduct that this court has already warned you about, that this court issued a ruling before opening statements, had to then issue an instruction to the jury after opening statements because you violated the court’s ruling, and throughout the course of this trial for which there’s a pending motion to hold you in contempt.”
The attorney stood to object and call for a mistrial, which was immediately overruled by the judge.
The case involves plaintiffs Will Ronning, D’Angela McNeill-George, Douglas Barden and David Ethridge, who claim exposure to asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder caused them to develop mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Ronning died shortly after the compensatory damages trial.
Earlier this week, Judge Vicomi ruled that Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky could not get out of a subpoena to testify during the trial about the company’s knowledge of asbestos in its iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder and whether the company acted maliciously and disregarded plaintiffs’ rights.
Beasley Allen has been privileged to represent thousands of people who developed ovarian cancer and mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder. For more information about mesothelioma litigation, contact Sharon Zinns in the firm’s Atlanta office.