October 19, 2018
Partners Diane Sullivan and Allison Brown have been named “Litigators of the Week” by The AmLaw Litigation Daily for securing a complete defense jury verdict for Johnson & Johnson in the mass tort talc litigation. The plaintiffs in this case alleged that exposure to asbestos in J&J’s baby powder contributed to her developing cancer. This lawsuit is one of many cases currently pending in courts around the United States, in which plaintiffs allege that the use of talcum powder caused lung cancer or ovarian cancer. Following four weeks of trial in New Jersey state court, the jury returned a unanimous, 7-0 verdict after deliberating for less than 30 minutes.
The Q&A article highlights Ms. Sullivan’s and Ms. Brown’s extraordinary talents, saying the pair “delivered a slam dunk for the defense.”
When asked about the key elements of their presentation at trial, Ms. Sullivan explained, “We approached this case with an emphasis on two things: fraud and common sense… At the end of the day, the jurors held plaintiffs to their burden and found that they did not have the evidence to support their claims.”
With regard to the jury deliberating for less than 30 minutes, Ms. Brown commented, “We thought it was a mistake.” Once the team understood it was not a mistake, they said they were pleasantly surprised. “I think the extraordinarily quick verdict is a reflection of how plaintiffs’ claims just didn’t add up, and if you use your common sense, it doesn’t take long to figure that out,” said Ms. Brown.
The article highlights Ms. Sullivan’s role as a “stopper” when it comes to mass tort cases, mentioning previous representations for Merck and AstraZeneca. Ms. Sullivan noted she has been fortunate to have tried some big cases in jurisdictions around the country, but underscored the importance of this case. “This one for J&J was special because I was back in the courthouse where I grew up trying cases over 30 years ago, back in the county where I grew up and graduated public high school, and I was trying it with my friend and longtime colleague,” said Ms. Sullivan.
When asked about their history of working together, Ms. Brown said, “Everything I know about trial work, I learned from Diane. I first met Diane almost 15 years ago, when Diane had just won the first Vioxx case, and I quickly became her biggest fan.” She went on to explain how their friendship plays an important part in their success. “We have a ton of fun working together, and we have each other’s back. I think our genuine friendship is something that is not lost on the jury. Juries pay attention to everything, and they like seeing people who get along and seem to be enjoying what they do. We’re not faking it in front of the jury, and I think that comes across.”