Improper Witness Testimony Leads to Mesothelioma Retrial

A recent mesothelioma lawsuit accused Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive of negligently allowing their talcum powder products to be contaminated with asbestos, leading to the untimely death of Donna Hayes. Though the jury found the companies blameless, Mrs. Hayes’ family appealed that decision on the basis of improper witness testimony that they’d unsuccessfully tried to block before the trial. Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky agreed with the grieving woman’s family, saying that the testimony provided by Johnson & Johnson’s corporate representative had been unduly prejudicial. The family will have the opportunity to seek compensation for their loss again in a new trial.

Toxicologist’s Personal Use of Talc at Issue in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Though Mrs. Hayes’ family appealed the jury’s decision for several reasons, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision based on testimony provided during the mesothelioma trial. In support of their defense, Johnson & Johnson called John Hopkins, Ph.D. as a witness. Though Dr. Hopkins was a toxicologist employed by Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiaries, he spoke to the product’s safety based on his personal use rather than as an expert witness. The victim’s family argued that his decision had no relevance to whether the company was aware of the dangers of the product, and that because he was a toxicologist his testimony had created a prejudicial assumption on the part of the jury.

Judges Conclude that Trial Court in Mesothelioma Case Abused its Discretion 

In reviewing the original objection to Dr. Hopkins’ testimony and the trial court’s decision to allow it to be heard by the jury, the Court of Appeals agreed with the mesothelioma victim’s conclusion that “Dr. Hopkins’ testimony was unduly prejudicial” and that “the trial court’s error in admitting it was substantial.” They wrote that “despite his non-expert disclaimer and regardless of any words that Cynthia’s experts offered to the effect that J&J’s products were unsafe, the jury was made aware that Dr. Hopkins is a preeminent toxicologist who evaluated safety issues concerning J&J’s talc products. The jury heard about Dr. Hopkins’ actions, i.e., that he was so certain of the safety of J&J’s talc products that he essentially staked the health of his family on it for decades.”

When fighting for justice in a mesothelioma lawsuit, it is essential that you have the best resources available working on your behalf. For information on how the Patient Advocates at can help, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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