Talc Supplier Settles California Asbestos Contamination Case
It seems that Imerys SA, supplier of talc to personal care products giant Johnson & Johnson, didn’t want to take any more chances in the latest case of a Pasadena, California woman who claims that J&J talcum powder contained asbestos, which caused her to develop mesothelioma.
They decided they would settle with the plaintiff after four weeks of testimony and just before the case went to the jury for a decision.
Several media outlets have reported the Imerys settlement, though the terms were not released. The company took similar steps in July in a trial in St. Louis, Missouri, where J&J was eventually ordered to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer due to their exposure to asbestos-tainted talcum powders.
A source close to that case hinted that Imerys’ payment was at least $5 million.
It’s likely that after that whopping multi-billion-dollar verdict, Imerys learned a lesson. Prior to that, however, they were a defendant in a similar suit in New Jersey that resulted in a $117 million verdict for the plaintiff, for which the French-based talc company was responsible for 30 percent, or about $35 million.
While that verdict is under appeal, J&J still faces about 10,000 more talc-related lawsuits and it’s likely that additional ones will be filed in the coming months or years.
Imerys wouldn’t say why it settled just before its company lawyers were set to give closing statements in their case vs. Carolyn Weirick.
The only statement made came from a company spokesperson later in the day. It said, “Imerys Talc America is committed to the quality and safety of its products, as evidenced by our quality testing results that consistently show no asbestos.”
J&J lawyers were obviously shocked and potentially confused by Imerys’ agreement to settle. As such, they asked Judge Margaret Oldendorf to grant a mistrial, but she refused, saying there were no grounds for such a motion.
Jurors will now take time to weigh claims against Johnson & Johnson and should present their verdict soon.
In the meantime, the company continues to deny that there was ever asbestos in its products, even miniscule amounts.
The case should be about “science, not speculation,” Christopher Vejnoska, one of the company’s lawyers, said in his final argument.