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New Jersey couple awarded $37 million in talcum powder case

CNN logo CNN 4/6/2018 By Jen Christensen, CNN
Johnson & Johnson baby powder © Provided by CNN Johnson & Johnson baby powder

A jury in Middlesex County, New Jersey, awarded $30 million in compensatory damages on Thursday to a man who got cancer after decades of using talcum powder. His wife was awarded $7 million in damages.

Banker Stephen Lanzo said he used Johnson & Johnson products like Shower to Shower and Baby Powder for more than 30 years, and he claimed that inhaling the powder caused his mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer that impacts the lining of the lungs.

Deposits of talc, one of the Earth's softest minerals, are often located near deposits of the minerals that constitute asbestos, and studies have shown the risk of cross-contamination during mining. Johnson & Johnson said that their talc products do not contain asbestos, which, they noted, has been a legal requirement since the 1970s.

A batch of similar asbestos-related cases is making its way through the courts, with one set to go to trial in May in South Carolina. A jury in California found in favor of Johnson & Johnson in an asbestos-related case in November.

Lanzo's case was the first to go to trial in New Jersey, the home state of Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson and other talcum powder companies face thousands of separate but related cases that draw a connection between genital talc use and ovarian cancer.

In this case, the jury awarded $7 million to Kendra, Stephen Lanzo's wife, and $30 million to him, with Johnson & Johnson getting 70% of the liability and Imerys Talc, a supplier of the mineral, liable for 30%.

The Lanzos' lawyers accused the company of holding back information from its customers about the health risks of asbestos in its talc products since the 1960s.

Johnson & Johnson argued that it did extensive testing to make sure its products were not contaminated.

"While we are disappointed with this decision, the jury has further deliberations to conduct in this trial and we will reserve additional comment until the case is fully completed," said Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson.

Imerys Talc did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they told Courtroom View Network that they intended to appeal.

The jury will begin asecond part phase of the trial to consider punitive damages on Tuesday.

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