FL Jury Fails to Agree on J&J Talc Verdict

Legislation & Litigation

Bob Sugarman sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company’s talc products caused the death of his wife, Marilyn Seskin, MD. The case has ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to agree on a verdict. 

The jury note the judge read aloud in court stated: “We are hopelessly deadlocked with absolutely, positively no way to resolve it.” 

The closely watched trial was held in Florida’s Circuit Court for the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County. It was the first talc powder trial against J&J in 3 years after litigation had been paused during the company’s failed bankruptcy proceedings.

Sugarman was seeking $14M in compensatory damages and more in punitive damages. A trial date has been rescheduled for later this month.

Dr. Marilyn Seskin Leaves Legacy of Cancer Research 

Marilyn Seskin, MD, was a retired anesthesiologist who loved cycling, hiking and scuba diving. She died of ovarian cancer in 2019, which her husband’s wrongful death lawsuit claimed was the result of J&J’s talc-based products.  

According to a University of Miami Medicine tribute to Dr. Seskin, she bequeathed $1.2M to the university to further cancer research. Her gift will help fund clinical trials and work to end treatment disparities for minority women.

The tribute stated: “Dr. Seskin’s bequest will support the Dr. Marilyn Seskin Gynecologic Oncology Clinic at Sylvester. A fund in her name, the Dr. Marilyn Seskin Gynecologic Cancer Research Fund, has already received more than $62,000 in additional contributions made in her honor by friends and family.”

Sugarman had said of his wife in the University’s profile, “Marilyn tried to use her medical training to find the source of her illness. She believed there was an answer to every question, and there was a source of every illness. You just had to do the research, from basic science and up, to find the answers.”

More Than 50K J&J Talc Cases Still Await Trial

Reuters’s exposé in 2018 revealed J&J knew of asbestos contamination of its talc products, as well as the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. The company never alerted the proper authorities. 

Tests from various labs found the presence of asbestos in the company’s talc as early as the 1970s and as late as the 2000s. U.S. Food & Drug officials found asbestos in one of J&J’s talc products in 2019, touching off a massive recall.

Almost 54,000 lawsuits related to talcum powder are currently awaiting trial in New Jersey in multidistrict litigation. Lawsuits claim ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases were the result of using asbestos-contaminated talc.
Following the hung jury in Sugarman’s case, reportedly J&J issued a statement claiming its baby powder “is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.” The company maintains its talc products are safe, but has replaced talc in its products with cornstarch.

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