Earlier this year, the state of Georgia’s first lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson involving talcum powder-induced cancer ended in a mistrial. After just three days of deliberation, the jury was deadlocked, according to an article on Law.com. Deliberation followed nearly three weeks of testimony.
The jury was at an impasse of 10 to 2 in favor of the plaintiff, according to one of her attorneys. In the state of Georgia, the jury has to come to a unanimous decision in civil cases to issue a verdict for a party. The mistrial occurred despite the state judge presiding over the case’s earlier Allen charge. Judge Morrison admonished the jury to reach a consensus if possible.
The Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The lawsuit involved allegations that the plaintiff’s decades-long use of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused her 2016 death, which was a result of her ovarian cancer. The plaintiff alleged the company’s talcum powder – and her prolonged use of it – was linked to her cancer diagnosis. The plaintiff passed away at the age of 65 after a three-year-long battle with ovarian cancer. Her family contended she used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for years – including in her genital area. The case was the first of its kind to go up against such a large consumer products company like Johnson & Johnson. That being said, the company and other cosmetic talc manufacturers are facing lawsuits across the country alleging links between their products and various types of cancer.
The trial hinged, in large part, on whether the fibers found in Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talcum powder are carcinogenic. Additionally, the trial focused on the company’s knowledge of any potential danger in using the product and its failure to disclose this danger to the public. While several talcum powder lawsuits across the nation allege asbestos can be found in the product, this wrongful death case focused on fibrous talc and its link to cancer. A pre-trial order specifically excluded any reference to asbestos during trial.
During closing arguments, expert testimony was detailed that linked genital talc use to ovarian cancer in general and the plaintiff’s specific disease. The case, however, depended upon Johnson & Johnson’s internal documents and patent paperwork going back decades – even to the 1950s – that plaintiff’s counsel argued showed Johnson & Johnson knew talc fibers were dangerous and a safe alternative to them was cornstarch.
Of note, mistrials are not uncommon in similar cases across the country alleging Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused mesothelioma. On the other hand, cases alleging ovarian cancer have generally resulted in substantial verdict awards, although some have been reversed by higher courts.
The case is Brower v. Johnson & Johnson.