A New Jersey state court jury on Wednesday awarded $37.3 million to four plaintiffs claiming they developed mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos allegedly present in Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products, after the judge made the unusual decision to strike the company’s entire closing argument from the record.
The six-member jury began deliberations last Friday in the first consolidated talc/mesothelioma trial involving multiple plaintiffs to date. Only one other multi-plaintiff talc case has gone to trial, and that case involved ovarian cancer-related claims.
Deliberations began after Judge Ana Viscomi, who presides over New Jersey’s asbestos docket, decided to strike the closing argument by J&J attorney Diane Sullivan for making derogatory comments about the plaintiff attorneys in the case, including referring to them as “sinister.”
Sullivan, a partner with Weil Gotshal & Manges, immediately moved for a mistrial, prompting a response of, “Overruled, sit down,” from Judge Viscomi.