A court in New Jersey struck the entire closing argument made by the defense attorney in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. Several plaintiffs are suing Johnson and Johnson on the basis that asbestos in talcum powder decades ago caused them to contract mesothelioma in the plaintiffs’ stomach linings. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. The defense lawyer, Diane Sullivan with Weil, Gotshal & Manges, argued in her closing argument that the experts for the plaintiffs had created evidence. Ms. Sullivan said the experts did not find a connection between the talcum powder and mesothelioma until they were hired by the plaintiffs. The defense attorney said the plaintiffs and/or the experts had created their evidence.
Judge Ana Viscomi said she she had warned Ms. Sullivan about her conduct. The judge said it would not be possible to strike only the offensive portion of her argument. It is unusual to strike an entire closing argument. Typically, a judge will simply strike the one or two portions that violate some rule. Ms. Sullivan was previously recognized for her success in defending Johnson & Johnson in a prior lawsuit. She was named a winning litigator for 2019 by the National Law Journal. See ABA Bar Journal news report. But, this time, it appears she was not a winning litigator.