ST. LOUIS – Defense attorneys representing Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit accusing the company of producing asbestos-laced baby powder that gave 22 women ovarian cancer sought once again to show that the women had prior family histories of cancer---unrelated to talc powder use.
Plaintiff testimony in the case wrapped up June 21 and trial coverage is being streamed courtesy of Courtroom View Network.
Johanna Jane Goldman, 41, of Palm Springs was diagnosed with stage III C ovarian cancer in March 2017 and died in July of that year. Her husband Laine Goldman and her mother Claudia Bautzer testified on her behalf in the St. Louis District Court.
“Can we agree that Mrs. [Johanna] Goldman had family members with one form or another of cancer?” Susan Gutierrez, associate counsel representing Johnson & Johnson, asked Bautzer in a deposition filmed earlier this year and played for the jury.
“Yes,” Bautzer responded.
“A grandmother and three aunts had breast cancer.”
However, Bautzer told the Houston attorney for the plaintiffs’ Mark Lanier that she never had cancer herself and her daughter hd tested negative for the presence of a BRCA, a gene prone to mutate and increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.
“The BRCA gene does not run in your family?” Gutierrez asked Bautzer under cross examination.
Bautzer said no.
Bautzer added she thought her daughter had been tested for all gene possibilities.
In addition to calling attention to family histories of cancer, the defense attorneys sought to point out any discrepancies between what the plaintiffs had written on a fact-gathering sheet in the weeks before the trial started---and what they later testified to under oath.
Gutierrez noted Johanna Goldman listed that she had used the Johnson & Johnson baby powder from 1986 to 2009 on the fact sheet, but during courtroom testimony it was stated the powder had been used going back to 1977.
“You agree the years 1977 through 1985 are not included in the answer your daughter herself provided?” Gutierrez asked Bautzer.
“Yes,” Bautzer said.
“We agree today that the information you provided is different?”
“Yes,” Bautzer said.
Bautzer said she and family members had paid more than $300,000 for her daughter's medical bills.
Another plaintiff Stephanie Martin, 46, of Lexington, South Carolina, disputed a medical record document presented by the defense that alleged she had a family history of cancer.
The document read “[Martin] has a family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in a maternal aunt. The history is very suggestive of potential ovarian cancer syndrome.”
“I don’t know where this came from,” Martin said. “I have no history of ovarian cancer in my family.”
The plaintiffs or their surviving relatives were asked by Lanier to describe their lives before and after cancer diagnosis. Photos of children and family members were displayed for the jury.
Laine Goldman, a furniture dealer in Palm Springs, said his late wife was beautiful, very spiritual and ,tender person who loved everyone and who was also an accomplished artist (she had professionally sold works of art). The woman was found to have stage III C ovarian cancer, which quickly turned into stage IV. She underwent a major surgery plus 26 rounds of chemotherapy.
“There was a detour in your life road which left you without Johanna and walking with Lex [8-year old son] alone,” Lanier said.
“Yes,” Goldman answered.
“How is it parenting alone?” Lanier asked.
“It’s not for everyone,” Goldman said. “It’s challenging. There’s not a day that my son does not mention his mom and he says prayers to his mom.”
During the questioning of plaintiff Krystal Kim, 52 of Pennsylvania, Lanier exhibited a bottle of a rival baby powder, Cottontails. The product bottle stated that the product contained corn starch, not talc.
“Companies know how to make a baby powder that doesn’t have talc in it,” Lanier said.
“Yes they do,” Kim said.