New Jersey Superior Court Judge Nelson C. Johnson barred two prominent scientists who were prepared to testify for plaintiffs in product liability litigation charging that talc mined by Imerys and sold by Johnson & Johnson causes ovarian cancer.
J&J is facing 1,200 lawsuits in Missouri and New Jersey, charging it with failing to warn consumers about the cancer risks. Earlier this year juries in state court in St. Louis awarded 8-figure verdicts in trials charging that the company knew that its talc-based products cause ovarian cancer, and failed to warn women who used it.
In addition, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) created the new MDL 2738, In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, supervised by US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey. There are 10 actions in 8 districts.
Grants summary judgment
Regardless, Judge Johnson ruled on Sept. 2 that Dr. Graham A. Colditz and Dr. Daniel W. Cramer were barred from testifying in multi-county litigation (MCL), and granted summary judgment for the defense in Brandi Carl v. Johnson & Johnson, Case No.: ATL-L-6546-14, and Diana Balderrama v. Johnson & Johnson, Case No.: ATL-L-6540-14.
The court seemed swayed by numbers, that Cramer and Colditz relied on case-control studies with a total of 18,384 participants while defense experts relied on cohort studies with 191,090 participants. Cohort studies compare the incidence of disease among individuals exposed to a substance with an unexposed group. Case-control studies examine the frequency of exposure in individuals who presently have the disease and compare them to a group of individuals who do not have the disease.
He criticized the scientists for presenting “made-for-litigation” testimony. “Plaintiffs’ experts fail to demonstrate ‘that the data or information used were soundly and reliably generated and are of a type reasonably relied upon by comparable experts,'” citing Rubanick v. Witco Chem. Corp., 125 NJ. 421, 432 (1991).
Graham A. Colditz, M.D., MPH, DRPH, FAFPHM, is the Chief of the Division of Public Health and Sciences in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Colditz also serves as co-director of the Biostatistics Core for the Siteman Cancer Center. Dr. Colditz was presented on the issue of general causation of ovarian cancer.
Daniel W. Cramer, M.D., Sc.D., is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He heads the Research, Division of the OB-GYN Epidemiology Center. Dr. Cramer was presented on the issues of both general and specific causation of ovarian cancer.
The judge waded into the details of cancer research and seemed confused between “ovarian cancer” and “invasive serious cancer,” the lack of inflammation in tissue that contained talc, which was surgically removed from each of the plaintiffs, and evidence about other gynecologic cancers of the vagina, cervix, uterus and fallopian tube (opinion page 20).
The judge flatly accepted the testimony of defense expert Lewis A. Chodosh that talc is inert, has anti-cancer properties, doesn’t cause death to normal cells, and doesn’t cause mutations.
The judge could not grasp the postulation of Cramer and Colditz that the talc flows upstream and lodges in the ovaries; it irritates cells in the ovaries, causes inflammation, which in turn causes immunosuppression, and causes cancer. ”
“Inflammation is an extremely complex issue and it is unclear whether chronic inflammation is sufficient to induce cancer in the absence of a carcinogen,” the judge wrote.