Johnson & Johnson is facing upcoming trials on claims that use of the company’s talc-based products directly led to ovarian cancer.
Attorneys for J&J had asked the appellate court to deny the jurisdiction of the 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis to hear the cases of out-of-state plaintiffs. In a one-page order signed Jan. 3, Chief Judge Angela T. Quigless denied the motion without further comment.
The next trial brought by more than 60 women and family members against Johnson & Johnson is scheduled to begin in St. Louis on Feb. 6, followed by five additional trials. Last year, St. Louis juries returned three separate verdicts of $70 million, $72 million and $55 million for cancer victims who sued New Jersey-based J&J.
The ruling is an important victory for plaintiffs, who seek to keep their cases in the Missouri courts where they have recovered three giant verdicts — and out of the New Jersey courts where a judge excluded their causation experts.
- State Court, New Jersey: J&J successfully won dismissal of two cases in New Jersey when Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson dismissed them in September after excluding two leading scientists from testifying as expert witnesses.
- Federal Court, New Jersey: 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 82 actions pending.
The lawsuits claim that numerous scientific studies have shown the link between ovarian cancer and the regular use of talc-containing products manufactured and marketed by J&J, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that the company has known about the dangers of talcum powder for decades, but has attempted to suppress and dismiss those studies while refusing to provide warning labels on its talc-containing products.
Anyone has a right to bring a case
“Anyone has the constitutional right to bring a case in any jurisdiction,” says Ted Meadows, attorney for the plaintiffs and principal at the Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery, Alabama. “We’ve chosen St. Louis to file several talc-related claims because it’s a central location that makes sense for these women, many of whom are very ill and deserve to have their claims heard fairly, quickly and efficiently.”
In the U.S., ovarian cancer affects about 24,000 women a year and is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death for women. It is estimated that 14,000 women die from talc-related ovarian cancer each year. One medical expert calculates that the use of talcum powder leads to nearly 10 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases reported annually.
Three times in 2016 a jury in St. Louis has awarded an 8-figure verdict against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn the public about the dangers that its talcum powder products can lead to ovarian cancer.
- On October 27 the third jury awarded more than $70 million in damages to Deborah Giannecchini, 62, of Modesto, CA, on her claim that her use of baby powder and other Johnson & Johnson talc products over 40 years caused her ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2012 and talc was found in her ovaries.
- In February, a jury awarded $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox of Birmingham, AL, who used Johnson’s baby powder for 35 years. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and died last year.
- In May another jury in the same courthouse awarded $55 million to Gloria Ristesund of Sioux Falls, SD. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 after using J&J’s talc-based feminine hygiene products for almost 40 years.
Long-known cancer risk
The plaintiffs argued that studies have shown for 30 years that there is a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but that J&J conspired to hide the truth.
Internal J&J memos showed the company was aware of studies linking talc powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer for decades, according to Onder.
The Oct. 27 verdict also held Imerys Talc liable. Imerys supplied talc to J&J and placed health warnings on the material safety data sheets for the talc. J&J, however, has never put a health warning on its Baby Powder or Shower to Shower products.