Johnson & Johnson should pay a terminal mesothelioma patient “tens of millions” after ignoring decades of red flags about asbestos in its talc baby powder, a lawyer for the California woman told a jury.
Christina Prudencio, 35, has suffered through surgery, hemorrhage, and other medical issues, and will eventually die as her chemotherapy stops working, her lawyer, Joseph Satterley, told the jury in an Alameda County court’s Zoom room, where the trial has been running since June 15.
Born in 1986, she had used talcum powder daily from birth until the age of 16, when she stopped using it, but her exposure continued because it was used on her two younger siblings.
Later, Prudencio became a preschool teacher and was working on a master’s degree to further her teaching career when she had to stop working because of her illness.
The surgery she had to try to rid herself of cancer was on her 34th birthday, Feb. 27, 2020. She was confined to bed for five days after the surgery. She also hemorrhaged at her sister’s house and had to be carried to an ambulance.
Prudencio’s lawyer argues that Johnson & Johnson should pay punitive damages for bringing such devastation and pain to Prudencio and her family members when it had had warning for decades that there could be asbestos in its talc. He asked for $1.6 million in loss of household services and up to $5.6 million in future earnings depending on whether the jury believed she would have completed her graduate degree. She filed her case in May 2020, and her mother and her sister testified at trial.
Her lawyer also exhorted the jury to apportion at least 90% of the blame, if it finds for Prudencio, to the “mother ship” of J&J, not the subsidiary of J&J Consumer, which is also a defendant. The parent company was the one that set the health and safety standards.
There are an array of types of asbestos and related mineral fibers, sometimes named for their shapes, and a thorny issue in the trial is whether the type of fibers found in various talc samples are, first of all, harmful, and second of all, the same kind found in Prudencio’s tissues.
There have been recent reports that Johnson & Johnson may consider siloing its talc liabilities with a subsidiary and then moving the subsidiary into bankruptcy.