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The Court is Back in Session, Virtually for Talcum Powder

November 3, 2020

The first trial involving Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) talc-based products since the nationwide COVID-19 shut down in March and the first talc trial were held virtually over Zoom began last week in California state court.

J&J and other defendants opposed holding the trial virtually, but the judge, in this case, pressed forward with the current talcum powder trial in light of the Plaintiffs’ rapidly failing health. The case received expedited consideration after being filed less than a year ago.

In addition to J&J, defendants also include retailers Safeway, CVS-owned Longs Drugs, and Lucky Stores, along with O’Reilly Auto Parts and Bendix Corporation.

In many ways, the proceedings seemed familiar compared to the numerous cosmetic talc trials to date. The plaintiff attorney told jurors remotely in his opening statement that his client suffers from advanced mesothelioma, a form of cancer commonly associated with asbestos exposure. The attorney said evidence would show his clients’ only asbestos exposure came from decades of using J&J’s cosmetic talc products like baby powder and a specific type of brake dust.

The plaintiff spent years doing auto-repair work as a hobby. He asked jurors to award an unspecified amount of damages in the millions, arguing that J&J, the retail stores, and automotive defendants knew about the dangers of asbestos in their products but failed to warn consumers. The attorney representing J&J argued that the plaintiffs’ cancer was not caused by exposure to J&J’s products and that J&J’s talc never contained asbestos. She disputed the accuracy of testing results provided by the plaintiff’s attorney.

The innumerable variables associated with an entirely virtual trial move this case into mostly uncharted territory. So far, the proceedings moved along without incident, with attorneys for the retailers and automotive companies still to deliver their opening statements.

The daily trial proceedings are closely monitored by parties attorneys to determine the practicability of virtual trials for talc cases. Despite J&J settling 1,000 talc cases earlier in October for $100 million, thousands of more talcum powder cases are pending throughout the country.


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