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California Judge Declares Mistrial in Johnson & Johnson Asbestos Case

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A weeks-long trial regarding the presence of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson cosmetic talc products recently ended abruptly after five days of deliberations and the substitution of two alternate jurors. In that time, jurors became hopelessly deadlocked, leading California State Court Judge Margaret Oldendorf to declare a mistrial in her Pasadena courtroom.

The plaintiff in this case had claimed she developed mesothelioma after years of using and inhaling Johnson & Johnson talc products, in particular the company's signature baby powder. Her argument was that the company's most memorable product contains talc laced with asbestos. She was seeking $29 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Johnson & Johnson's talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, was originally a codefendant in the case, but reached a confidential settlement to exit just prior to the beginning of jury deliberations. Several other high-profile asbestos/talcum powder cases have also resulted in hung juries this year, with similar results happening in cases in South Carolina and in Los Angeles.

There are still other Johnson & Johnson talc cases pending on this issue, however, with one in Los Angeles County, and the other in New Jersey. In addition to the pending cases, there have been precedent-setting, multimillion-dollar verdicts entered against the company in high-profile cases. A case out of New Jersey earlier this year, for example, resulted in a $117 million verdict in favor of a plaintiff who successfully argued that inhaling asbestos-contaminated Johnson & Johnson products for years caused his mesothelioma.

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