Jury Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay $18.8 Million to Mesothelioma Patient in Lawsuit

In a recent verdict on Tuesday, a jury has ruled that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) must pay $18.8 million in damages to Emory Hernandez Valadez, a 24-year-old who developed mesothelioma due to extensive exposure to one of the company’s talc products.

The lawsuit was filed by Hernandez last year in California state court in Oakland, seeking compensation for the development of the deadly cancer in the tissue surrounding his heart, allegedly caused by the talc product.

J&J’s legal representatives argued that there was no evidence linking Hernandez’s mesothelioma to asbestos or proving that he was exposed to tainted talc. However, Hernandez’s lawyers accused the company of concealing asbestos contamination over several decades, leading to the development of the cancer.

During the trial, Hernandez testified in June that he would have avoided J&J’s talc if he had been warned about its asbestos content. His mother, Anna Camacho, stated that she used large quantities of J&J powder on her son when he was a baby.

The jury found J&J liable for Hernandez’s medical bills, pain, and suffering, but did not award punitive damages against the company.

However, Hernandez may face challenges in collecting the judgment, as a bankruptcy court order has frozen most litigation involving J&J’s talc products in the foreseeable future.

“The company will appeal the verdict, which is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” said J&J vice president of litigation, Erik Haas, in a statement.

Hernandez’s lawsuit is not the first against J&J’s talc products, as tens of thousands of plaintiffs have sued the company, alleging that the baby powder and other talc products contained asbestos, causing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

J&J subsidiary, LTL Management, had filed for bankruptcy in Trenton, New Jersey, proposing to pay $8.9 billion to settle 38,000 lawsuits and prevent new cases from coming forward.

J&J’s costs of its talc-related verdicts, settlements, and legal fees reached $4.5 billion, said the company in bankruptcy court filings.

Litigation has been halted during the bankruptcy proceedings, despite that, US Chief Bankruptcy Judge, Michael Kaplan, who is overseeing LTL’s Chapter 11, let Hernandez’s trial as he is expected to live for a short time.

Asbestos plaintiffs are seeking to have LTL’s bankruptcy filing dismissed, arguing that it was brought to insulate the company from litigation.

J&J and LTL argue that bankruptcy delivers settlement payments to plaintiffs more fairly, efficiently, and equitably than trial courts, likening it to a lottery, in which some litigants get large awards while others get nothing.



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