Case Goes to Jury in J&J Asbestos Suit
A judge in New Jersey is set to hand the case of Stephen Lanzo III vs. Johnson & Johnson to a jury today so they can begin to decide whether a powder manufactured by the consumer products giant is responsible for the plaintiff’s diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Lanzo, age 46, is a banker with U.S. Trust Company. In his suit, he accuses Johnson & Johnson (J&J) of hiding the fact that all its talc-based products contained asbestos for more than 50 years.
The plaintiff claims that his use of J&J powder for more than three decades caused him to develop mesothelioma, a cancer for which the only known cause is exposure to asbestos. Specifically, Lanzo claims that he and his family’s continuous use of the company’s talcum powder (from 1972 to 2003) made him sick.
Lanzo is the first male lead plaintiff to file such a claim against Johnson & Johnson. There have been countless claims filed by women, most of whom developed ovarian cancer after using J&J’s famous Baby Powder or its Shower-to-Shower product in their genital area.
Some have been successful, others have not. J&J, however, won the first trial forged over mesothelioma claims, that one by a woman as well.
Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble have also faced similar suits, and the former settled out of court last year with a New Jersey woman who claimed her mesothelioma was caused by that company’s once-popular Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.
However, the evidence is present, many have observed, and lends itself towards a guilty verdict for J&J. Way back in 1969, notes an article in Bloomberg, a company research scientist let executives know that tests showed asbestos in the talc used in the company’s baby powder.
He told higher-ups that they should be prepared for litigation should word ever get out about the contamination.
“J&J knew almost 49 years ago there was asbestos in their talc,” one of Lanzo’s lawyers told the seven-woman jury in his closing statement.
He stressed that the company has never warned consumers that testing revealed asbestos in its baby powder.
On the other hand, the company’s attorneys claimed in their final statement that Lanzo’s lawyers “twisted themselves into pretzels” trying to prove there’s asbestos in the talc and that it caused the plaintiff’s disease.
They claim his mesothelioma is more likely a result of the asbestos insulation in the home in which he grew up and in the schools which he attended.