Asked to Punish J&J, Jury Returns $110 Million Verdict in Talc Case

62-year-old Lois Slemp wasn't in court to hear the verdict because she was too ill to attend. Picture: Supplied
62-year-old Lois Slemp was too sick to be in court to hear the verdict. Picture: Supplied

Asked by plaintiff attorney Allen Smith to punish Johnson & Johnson for its “reprehensible” actions in selling cancer-causing talcum powder to women, a jury in St. Louis state court delivered a bombshell $110,000,000 verdict for the plaintiff.

Attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm of Ridgeland, MS, represented plaintiff Lois Slemp, age 62, of Virginia. She used J&J’s baby power and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

Slemp, whose cancer has since spread to her liver, was too ill to attend the trial. Her lawsuit is among more than 1,000 filed in St. Louis by women across the country, taking advantage of a Missouri law that allows suits to be filed there by plaintiffs with no connection to the state.

The case is Lois Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 1422-CC09326-01, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri before Judge Rex Burlison. More talc trials are set in St. Louis for June and July, with the first case in Caifornia set to go to trial in July.

An additional 233 lawsuits are pending against J&J before US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in MDL 2738 in New Jersey, IN RE: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation. She was also represented by Ted Meadows, Danielle Mason and David Dearing of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC of Montgomery, AL.

Fourth Mega-Verdict

It was the fourth mega-verdict delivered against Johnson & Johnson, which has known about the ovarian cancer risks since the 1970s. In 2016 juries returned verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million against J&J in lawsuits filed by women with ovarian cancer.

The St. Louis jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in all of her claims, including conspiracy, breach of implied warranty and negligence.

The jury also held Imerys Talc America liable for $100,000. Imerys supplied talc to J&J and placed health warnings on the material safety data sheets for the talc. J&J, however, has never put a health warning on its Baby Powder or Shower to Shower products.

Smith said in his closing argument that J&J is a $70 billion company and that a verdict to of $175 million would be only 1/4 of one percent of that value. “They not going to warn unless you all do something about it,” he told the jury, “and the only way you can do that through this court is through monetary damages.”

Evidence at the trial showed that J&J put corporate profits ahead of consumers. “These defendants…took a warlike mentality and fought regulation by influencing the FDA and the other agencies that are supposed to police this kind of talk, and there’s nothing more reprehensible than that,” he argued.

Spokespeople for the Johnson & Johnson pointed out that the federal judge in New Jersey excluded testimony from key experts who have testified for plaintiffs in St. Louis. Further, the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on May 10 challenging the first talc verdict, when jurors awarded Jacqueline Fox $72 million. And on March 3, 2017, a St. Louis jury returned a defense verdict for J&J and Imerys.

“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” attorney Ted Meadows said. “I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”

Larry Bodine

Attorney Larry Bodine is Editor of Mass Tort Nexus, and the Editor of The National Trial Lawyers. He is the former Editor in Chief of Lawyers.com and the American Bar Association Journal. He is a cum laude graduate of both Seton Hall University Law School and Amherst College.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *