At opening statements Monday in a Middlesex County court for the second suit linking Johnson & Johnson talc products to mesothelioma, the company offered several alternate theories for the source of the asbestos that caused the plaintiff’s illness.
Stephen Lanzo III, 46, said in his suit that he was a lifelong user of Johnson’s Baby Powder and was diagnosed with the deadly disease two years ago. His suit said the product is the only possible source of the asbestos that caused his illness. While mesothelioma is often associated with shipyard workers or other industrial jobs, Lanzo is a nonsmoker who never worked in an occupation that could expose him to asbestos.
But counsel for Johnson & Johnson told jurors that the home in Montclair where Lanzo grew up received an abatement in 2002 for basement pipes wrapped in asbestos, and the plaintiff’s brother testified that he would swing from those pipes as a youngster, which might have dislodged some of the fibers. What’s more, the elementary, middle and high schools Lanzo attended in Montclair all have undergone multiple rounds of asbestos abatement, said Robert Brock of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, who represents Johnson & Johnson. In addition, Lanzo has lived most of his life in northern New Jersey, except for a period where he lived in Northern California, and both those places have a high rate of natural exposure to asbestos, said Brock.
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