Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a $29 million award to a woman who said asbestos in its talcum powder-based products caused her cancer landed before a skeptical California appellate panel, with the judges questioning allegations that the trial judge caused a miscarriage of justice by allowing purportedly unreliable expert testimony.
The state appellate judges hammered counsel for the pharmaceutical giant with questions during oral arguments about its assertion that the jury’s verdict in favor of Teresa E. Leavitt and her husband should be overturned because the trial judge abused his discretion, pressing J&J to show them where the prejudice lies.
Justice Gordon B. Burns said even if the panel agreed with J&J’s argument that plaintiff’s expert Dr. William Longo’s testimony on Leavitt’s asbestos exposure should have been excluded, “you still need to show there is prejudice.”
During Leavitt’s trial in early 2019, the jury heard that Leavitt’s mother used J&J baby powder on Leavitt and her sister when they were babies in the 1960s in the Philippines and that she continued to use it after their family moved to the United States in 1968.
As a young woman, Leavitt also powdered her hair and face with the product, using it as dry shampoo and a foundation for makeup through the 1970s, her counsel told the jury.