Lanzo v. Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., DOCKET NOS. A-5711-17

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtYANNOTTI, P.J.A.D.
Citation467 N.J.Super. 476,254 A.3d 691
Parties Stephen LANZO, III and Kendra Lanzo, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. CYPRUS AMAX MINERALS COMPANY, Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., Resource Processors, Inc., and Windsor Minerals, Inc., Cyprus Minerals Co., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., Resource Processors, Inc., and Windsor Minerals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., and Resource Processors, Inc., Defendants, and Imerys Talc America, Inc., f/k/a Luzenac America, Inc., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to Windsor Minerals, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., f/k/a Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., Defendants-Appellants.
Decision Date28 April 2021
Docket NumberA-5717-17,DOCKET NOS. A-5711-17

467 N.J.Super. 476
254 A.3d 691

Stephen LANZO, III and Kendra Lanzo, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
CYPRUS AMAX MINERALS COMPANY, Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., Resource Processors, Inc., and Windsor Minerals, Inc., Cyprus Minerals Co., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., Resource Processors, Inc., and Windsor Minerals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to American Talc Company, Metropolitan Talc Company, Inc., Charles Mathieu, Inc., and Resource Processors, Inc., Defendants,
and
Imerys Talc America, Inc., f/k/a Luzenac America, Inc., Individually and as Successor-in-Interest to Windsor Minerals, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., f/k/a Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., Defendants-Appellants.

DOCKET NOS. A-5711-17
A-5717-17

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

Argued March 9, 2021
Decided April 28, 2021


Roman Martinez (Latham & Watkins LLP) of the New York and District of Columbia bars, admitted pro hac vice, argued the cause for appellant Imerys Talc America, Inc. (Chasan, Lamparello, Mallon & Cappuzzo, PC, Roman Martinez, and Elana Nightingale Dawson (Latham & Watkins LLP) of the Illinois and District of Columbia bars, admitted pro hac vice, attorneys; Cindy Nan Vogelman, Secaucus, Roman Martinez and Elana Nightingale Dawson, on the briefs).

E. Joshua Rosenkranz (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) of the New York bar, admitted pro hac vice, argued the cause for appellant Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. (McCarter & English LLP, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Robert M. Loeb (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) of the District of Columbia bar, admitted pro hac vice, Paul David Meyer (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) of the California bar, admitted pro hac vice, and Naomi J. Scotten (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) of the New York, Virginia, and District of Columbia bars, admitted pro hac vice, attorneys; John C. Garde, Newark, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Robert M. Loeb, Paul David Meyer, Naomi J. Scotten, and Evan M. Rose, on the briefs).

Denyse Clancy (Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood) of the California bar, admitted pro hac vice, argued the cause for respondents Stephen Lanzo, III and Kendra Lanzo (Levy Konigsberg LLP, and Denyse Clancy, attorneys; Moshe Maimon and Denyse Clancy, on the briefs).

Before Judges Yannotti, Haas, and Mawla

The opinion of the court was delivered by

YANNOTTI, P.J.A.D.

254 A.3d 697
467 N.J.Super. 486

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) and Imerys Talc America, Inc. (Imerys) appeal from a judgment dated April 23, 2018, which awarded plaintiffs Stephen Lanzo III and his wife Kendra Lanzo $117 million in compensatory and punitive damages, and other orders entered by the trial court during the course

467 N.J.Super. 487

of this litigation. JJCI's appeal is docketed as A-5717-17, and Imerys' appeal is docketed as A-5711-17. We address both appeals in this opinion. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand the matter to the trial court for new, separate trials against JJCI and Imerys.

I.

On December 23, 2016, plaintiffs filed a complaint against Cyprus Amax Minerals Company (Cyprus Amax) and Cyprus Minerals Company (collectively, Cyprus), Johnson & Johnson (J&J), JJCI, Imerys, and Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc. (Whittaker). Plaintiffs asserted claims under the common law and the New Jersey Products Liability Act (PLA), N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1 to - 11.

Plaintiffs claimed Mr. Lanzo contracted mesothelioma from his long-term use of Johnson Baby Powder (JBP) and J&J's Shower to Shower talcum powder (SS). J&J and JJCI produced, marketed, and sold JBP and SS using J&J's own talc or talc supplied by other defendants.1 Plaintiffs alleged the products contained asbestos. In the complaint, Ms. Lanzo asserted a claim for the loss of her spouse's services, society, and consortium.

Prior to trial, the judge considered and ruled upon several motions. The judge granted summary judgment in favor of Whittaker and dismissed the claims against this defendant with prejudice. The judge also granted partial summary judgment in favor of Imerys and Cyprus Amax and dismissed all common law claims against them.

The judge also granted partial summary judgment to J&J and JJCI and dismissed all common law claims but permitted plaintiffs' design-defect and failure-to-warn claims under the PLA to proceed against these defendants. The judge reserved decision on

467 N.J.Super. 488

J&J and JJCI's motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs' punitive damage claims.

The judge also conducted a Rule 104 hearing on a motion by J&J, JJCI, Imerys, and Cyprus Amax to bar evidence and testimony by plaintiffs' expert William Longo, Ph.D., regarding the testing of certain samples of JBP and SS taken from "vintage" containers. They argued that Longo's testimony should be barred because there was no reliable chain of possession of the samples tested, and no proof the contents of the containers had not been contaminated after they were released by J&J. The judge denied the motion.

In addition, J&J, JJCI, Imerys, and Cyprus Amax filed a motion to preclude plaintiffs' expert James S. Webber, Ph.D., from testifying that non-asbestiform cleavage

254 A.3d 698

fragments of certain minerals can cause mesothelioma. Alternatively, they sought a Rule 104 hearing on Webber's qualifications. The judge denied the motion.

During the trial, J&J, JJCI, Imerys, and Cyprus Amax moved to bar plaintiffs' expert, Jacqueline Moline, M.D., from testifying that non-asbestiform cleavage fragments of certain minerals can cause mesothelioma. The judge limited the scope of Moline's testimony, but allowed her to testify regarding "non-asbestiform cleavage fragments from a medical point of view."

Furthermore, as the evidentiary portion of the trial was coming to an end, plaintiffs asked the judge to impose sanctions upon Imerys based on its failure to produce certain talc samples and test data in discovery and its destruction of certain talc samples. The judge decided to strike Imerys' answer and suppress its defenses. The judge reconsidered that decision and decided to provide the jury with an adverse inference instruction as a sanction for Imerys' discovery violations and spoliation of evidence.

J&J and JJCI then moved to sever the claims against them and sought a mistrial. The judge denied the motions. The judge thereafter granted motions by J&J and Cyprus Amax for dismissal

467 N.J.Super. 489

of the claims against them, leaving JJCI and Imerys as the only defendants remaining in the case.

In her final instructions to the jury, the judge provided the jury with the adverse inference instruction, stating, among other things, that Imerys wrongfully withheld talc samples and testing data and destroyed or discarded some talc samples. The judge told the jury it could "infer that the missing evidence may have been helpful to the plaintiffs' case to the detriment of Imerys." The judge instructed the jury that JJCI was not involved in the wrongful conduct.

The jury returned a verdict against JJCI and Imerys finding that Mr. Lanzo had been exposed to asbestos from JPB, SS, or both of these products, and that such exposure was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma. The jury awarded Mr. Lanzo $30 million in compensatory damages for his disability, impairment, loss of the enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering, and $7 million to Ms. Lanzo for the loss of Mr. Lanzo's services, society, and consortium. The jury assigned seventy percent responsibility for the compensatory damage awards to JJCI and thirty percent to Imerys.

The judge then denied JJCI and Imerys' motions to dismiss the punitive damage claims. After evidence was presented on these claims, the jury awarded plaintiffs punitive damages of $55 million against JJCI and $25 million against Imerys. On April 23, 2018, the judge entered a final judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict, which included pre-judgment interest on the compensatory damages. Thereafter, the judge denied JJCI and Imerys' motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, or remittitur. These appeals followed.

On appeal, JJCI argues: (1) the trial court erred by admitting unreliable expert testimony; (2) the court undermined its defense by refusing to grant separate trials after ruling that it would provide the jury with an adverse inference instruction regarding Imerys; (3) the jury instructions improperly constrained consideration of potential alternative causes for Mr. Lanzo's illness; and (4)

467 N.J.Super. 490

there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict that Mr. Lanzo was exposed to asbestos from J&J talcum powder, establish causation, and support the punitive damages award.

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2 practice notes
  • Kemp v. Brandau, A-4161-19
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • April 21, 2022
    ...spoliator need do only what is reasonable under the circumstances." Ibid. (citation omitted). [Lanzo v. Cyprus Amax Mins. Co., 467 N.J.Super. 476, 520 (App. Div. Because dismissal with prejudice is "the ultimate sanction," it should be imposed "only sparingly." Robe......
  • Bader v. Johnson & Johnson, A158868
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 23, 2022
    ...cleavage fragments of the six relevant asbestos minerals can cause mesothelioma. (Lanzo v. Cyprus Amax Minerals (N.J. Sup. 2021) 254 A.3d 691 [467 N.J.Super. 476, 487, 517-518].) As set forth post, in light of our review of the record and Dr. Egilman's introduction of the opinion that Lanzo......
2 cases
  • Kemp v. Brandau, A-4161-19
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • April 21, 2022
    ...spoliator need do only what is reasonable under the circumstances." Ibid. (citation omitted). [Lanzo v. Cyprus Amax Mins. Co., 467 N.J.Super. 476, 520 (App. Div. Because dismissal with prejudice is "the ultimate sanction," it should be imposed "only sparingly." Robertet Flavors, Inc. v. Tri......
  • Bader v. Johnson & Johnson, A158868
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 23, 2022
    ...cleavage fragments of the six relevant asbestos minerals can cause mesothelioma. (Lanzo v. Cyprus Amax Minerals (N.J. Sup. 2021) 254 A.3d 691 [467 N.J.Super. 476, 487, 517-518].) As set forth post, in light of our review of the record and Dr. Egilman's introduction of the opinion that Lanzo......

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