Talcum powder has been a staple in American medicine cabinets for more than a century, but now thousands of women say the product causes ovarian cancer. Cancer patients and survivors have filed a wave of damning personal injury lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the country’s largest talcum powder supplier. Reports suggest that over 1,000 lawsuits have already been filed, with women accusing Johnson & Johnson of concealing decades of scientific evidence from the public.
After 2 Major Verdicts, 3rd Talc Trial Continues
Only two of these cases have actually gone to trial, although their results should hearten every ovarian cancer patient who plans to file suit. In back-to-back trials, which played out in a St. Louis, Missouri state court, juries have awarded women and surviving family members in excess of $127 million – staggering amounts that have shocked the nation. Now, a third trial is entering its fourth week of court proceedings.
The case was filed by a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talc powders for 46 years. Long before proceedings had begun, legal experts were anticipating a protracted brawl in court. Reports from Law360suggest that the trial has proved highly-contentious, with defense attorneys for Johnson & Johnson openly attacking the credibility of expert witnesses testifying on the link between talc powder and ovarian cancer.
Attorneys expect the jury’s verdict to be rendered by the end of this week. But other recent developments in the litigation have already boosted the hopes of ovarian cancer patients around the country.
$55 Million Talc Verdict Upheld By Missouri Court
On May 2, 2016, a 62-year-old woman – diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 – was awarded $55 million in damages by a Missouri state court jury. Soon after the verdict was announced, defense attorneys for Johnson & Johnson flew into action. The lawyers filed a flurry of post-trial motions, in hopes of seeing the massive verdict overturned or amended. Nearly four months later, Johnson & Johnson is out of options – at least where the case’s trial court is concerned.
In an order dated September 9th, Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court denied each of the company’s post-trial motions, effectively upholding the jury’s verdict, along with the $55 million award. The decision – a major victory for the plaintiff – has forced Johnson & Johnson to appeal the case to a higher court. The company filed a notice of appeal on September 16.
Federal Talc Lawsuits Consolidated In New Jersey
On October 4, 2016, a panel of federal judges announced that every talcum powder lawsuit filed in federal court would be transferred to the US District Court of New Jersey. While the vast majority of talc lawsuits have been filed in state courts, at least 44 similar claims are now pending in federal courts. These cases, however, are scattered across over 20 different jurisdictions. With a recent decision from the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, the lawsuits will soon make their way to New Jersey, where a single judge will preside over the newly-consolidated litigation.
The decision is not a blessing for every plaintiff. While nine ovarian cancer patients, along with Johnson & Johnson itself, supported the motion to centralize, twelve plaintiffs argued against the transfer. Despite their protests, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) found that the lawsuits “involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the District of New Jersey will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of [the] litigation.”
Notably, two of the actions that have been consolidated in New Jersey are actually class actions, “brought on behalf of putative classes of women who allege that [Johnson & Johnson] deceptively marketed the talcum powder products for feminine hygienic use without disclosing talc’s carcinogenic properties.” At least one of the Panel’s judges was required to renounce her participation in the class actions, before being able to participate in the JPML decision.