On March 27, 2019, a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury of six men rendered a Defense verdict in favor of Defendant Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. (“JJCI”), a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, in the Ricardo and Pilar Rimondi matter. The jurors found that Plaintiff failed to prove a prima facie case against JJCI, the sole defendant, and answered “no” to the first interrogatory on the verdict sheet. Plaintiff alleged JJCI contributed to Mr. Rimondi’s development of mesothelioma, diagnosed in September 2016, approximately six years after he last used Johnson’s Baby Powder. Plaintiff allegedly used the product in both Peru and the United States from 1960 to 2010.
During the trial, Plaintiff argued JJCI failed to adequately test its products for asbestos contamination and to warn of the potential for exposure to asbestos from use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. Further, they maintained that JJCI was aware of the contamination of Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades and continued to sell the product. Plaintiff contended had Mr. Rimondi known of the risks associated with the use of asbestos contaminated talcum powder, he never would have used it.
In their case-in-chief, Plaintiff presented documents that purported to establish JJCI knew decades ago that the talc mines used in the production of its Baby Powder were contaminated with asbestos despite the testimony of JJCI’s corporate representative who maintained Johnson’s Baby Powder was not contaminated with asbestos. Plaintiff also relied upon several experts to demonstrate this allegation. Dr. William Longo (microscopist) and Dr. Alice Blount (mineralogist) provided testimony regarding their testing of Johnson’s Baby Powder and their results showing asbestos contamination. Dr. Steven Compton (microscopist) provided testimony regarding his testing of talc ore from Italy and Vermont which he maintained were contaminated with asbestos. The experts also discussed various testing methodology and the appropriate ways to test talc for contamination. All three experts criticized JJCI’s testing protocols as insufficient to detect asbestos contamination of talc. Dr. David Rosner was called as an “asbestos historian,” and testified that knowledge regarding the potential contamination of talc with asbestos was available in the early to mid-1900s, and contamination of cosmetic talcum powder products had been demonstrated by at least the 1960s. Finally, Plaintiff called Dr. Jacqueline Moline (occupational medicine) as a causation expert who testified that Mr. Rimondi’s use of Johnson’s Baby Powder over the course of several decades was a substantial contributing cause of his development of mesothelioma. Mr. Rimondi and his wife, his aunt, and his children testified about his use (and use on him) of Johnson’s Baby Powder, and his diagnosis of and medical treatment for mesothelioma.
JJCI called two expert witnesses to testify on its behalf. Dr. Suresh Moolgavkar (epidemiologist) discussed several studies of miners and millers of cosmetic talc (occupational cohort studies) from around the world and concluded, based on his review of the literature, that there were no any epidemiological studies showing an increased risk of developing mesothelioma from exposure to cosmetic talc. Dr. Matthew Sanchez (geologist/mineralogist) provided testimony regarding various testing methods, the definition of asbestiform, and his opinions regarding flaws in Dr. Compton’s, Dr. Blount’s, and Dr. Longo’s testing methodologies for determining asbestos contamination of talc. JJCI further offered its corporate representative to discuss the safety of its Johnson’s Baby Powder and the adequacy of its approved testing protocols and methodology for detecting contamination of its products. JJCI also presented evidence that Mr. Rimondi may have been subject to environmental or neighborhood exposure to asbestos from a cement factory in Lima, Peru that was located within a few kilometers of his childhood homes and schools.