Kentucky Jury Rejects Talc Powder Asbestos Claims Against J&J, Colgate

By | August 6, 2019

Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive Co. persuaded a Kentucky jury to reject claims that asbestos in the companies’ talc-based products was responsible for a woman’s death.

Jurors in a Louisville state court deliberated about a half hour Friday before finding J&J and Colgate weren’t liable for Donna Ann Hayes’s cancer. Hayes died in 2016 of mesothelioma, an asbestos-linked cancer.

J&J says the ruling is its sixth win in a wave of trials involving people who claim the company hid that its iconic baby powder was contaminated with asbestos. Juries in at least half a dozen other cases ruled for the plaintiffs, with a St. Louis panel awarding $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women last year. The company appealed.

A jury in New Jersey is hearing evidence in another such case. J&J faces more than 15,000 lawsuits over the allegedly contaminated products, according to securities filings.

“We are pleased the jury rejected the claim that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos and caused the plaintiff’s disease,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. Allison Klimerman, a Colgate spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a call for comment after regular business hours.

Hayes, a travel agent, was in her early 70s when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, according to court testimony. She used both J&J’s Baby Powder and Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet powder at different times in her life, according to Joe Satterley, her lawyer.

Her family claimed she developed the fatal illness because she inhaled the asbestos in the products. During the two-week trial, experts hired by the family testified that samples of Baby Powder and Cashmere Bouquet tested positively for asbestos. Talc was also found in Hayes’s lymph tissue, according to trial testimony.

“We’re disappointed the jury didn’t see the evidence the way we saw it,” Joe Satterley, the lawyer for Hayes’s family, said in an interview.

J&J’s and Colgate’s lawyers said Hayes’s cancer wasn’t tied to the powders, but came from regular environmental factors. The companies’ experts testified that talc used in the products came from asbestos-free mines and dismissed the plaintiffs experts’ findings, saying they were mistaken when they identified harmless minerals as the carcinogen.

The case is Hayes v. Colgate-Palmolive, 16-ci-03503, 30th Judicial District of Kentucky (Louisville).

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