Plaintiff Stephen Lanzo, 46, contends he developed the deadly cancer mesothelioma after inhaling Johnson’s Baby Powder over decades of use and exposure, beginning when his mother applied it on him as an infant. The product was supposed to be made of talc, a naturally occurring powder. According to an expert for the Plaintiff, it contained tremolite asbestos as well.
Lanzo and his wife are suing Johnson & Johnson and two of its talc suppliers including Imerys Talc America. They claim the companies knew, as early as the 1970s, their talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos.
Most of the trials Johnson & Johnson has faced thus far over its talc-based baby powder have dealt with allegations the powder itself causes ovarian cancer. The results from those trial have varied, with the plaintiff winning some and J&J winning some.
This is the second mesothelioma-related trial over Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products, and the first in the company’s home state. In the previous mesothelioma trial, which took place in California, J&J prevailed.
The mesothelioma-realted cases allege either that the company’s talc-based products are/were tainted with asbestos, which causes mesothelioma, or that talc inhalation itself can cause the deadly cancer.
In opening statements in the New Jersey trial recently, the Lanzos’ attorney claimed that, back in the 1970s, Johnson & Johnson tried multiple times without success to remove asbestos from their talc products.
“If you try so hard to get it out, it’s because it is there,” the lawyer said.
He went on to say that Mr. Lanzo was never exposed to other sources of asbestos that could have caused his mesothelioma. Moreover, the kind of asbestos found in Lanzo’s tissue samples matches that allegedly found in J&J talc products.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorney argued that there is no asbestos in the company’s talc products. He said there never has been and they have been carefully tested. Furthermore, he argued, the studies linking talc and mesothelioma directly are faulty and outdated.
He suggested it was more likely that Lanzo was exposed to asbestos in some other way, perhaps as a child.
“The science doesn’t support it,” he said of Lanzo’s claim that asbestos-laced talc caused his mesothelioma.
Recently during the trial though, electron microscopy expert William Longo told jurors he found asbestos in more than half of the 32 samples of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products he had examined.
The trial is taking place before a judge who provides over New Jersey’s centralized asbestos docket and is expected to take about two months.