Missouri's highest court has rejected Johnson & Johnson's request to transfer thousands of talc powder lawsuits out of a St. Louis court.
By Laurence Banville
The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected a petition from Johnson & Johnson that would have seen over 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits transferred out of St. Louis. Missouri's largest city has become the hub for talc powder litigation, Reuters reports. In over 2,500 lawsuits, women who claim to have used talc as a feminine hygiene product for decades say the powdered mineral can cause ovarian cancer.
Most of these lawsuits have been filed in the 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis City. Outside of Missouri, a Multi-District Litigation is pending in New Jersey federal court. A number of cases have also been filed in a state court in California.
Johnson & Johnson's Bid For "Friendlier" Jurisdiction DeniedDespite disputes in the scientific community, Johnson & Johnson has lost three straight jury verdicts in St. Louis, amounting to nearly $195 million in compensation for ovarian cancer patients and their families. The Honorable Rex M. Burlison presided over all three trials. Hoping to reverse this trend, Johnson & Johnson asked Missouri's High Court in a recent appeal to transfer the majority of 2,500 talcum powder lawsuits to a myriad of state courts around the country.
In court documents, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson argued that plaintiffs' attorneys had flooded the St. Louis market with television advertising and tainted the city's jury pool. The company's arguments were previously rejected by Judge Burlison and Missouri's Court of Appeals. Now, the State's Supreme Court has also weighed in on the issue, choosing to affirm the plaintiffs' right to file suit in St. Louis.
Johnson & Johnson has also been fighting to have dismissed a number of expert witnesses, who are testifying on behalf of ovarian cancer patients. Thus far, Missouri's courts have not been persuaded by this line of argument, although a state court judge in New Jersey, currently presiding over around 200 talc lawsuits, disqualified plaintiffs' experts in September of 2016.
Fourth Talc Powder Trial Begins In St. LouisThe next talc trial is scheduled to begin February 6, 2017. In her case, a plaintiff from Columbia, Tennessee claims that she used Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder for 36 years. The woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013, court documents state. The case accuses Johnson & Johnson, one of the world's largest consumer healthcare companies, of concealing talcum powder's link to ovarian cancer for decades. Johnson & Johnson maintains that talc-based body powders are safe.
Imerys Talc, the healthcare giant's main main supplier of talc, is also named as a defendant in the case. Imerys had largely avoided any liability until October of 2016, when a St. Louis jury found the company partially responsible for failing to warn the public of talc's potential risks. In that judgment, the jury awarded an ovarian cancer patient over $70 million, hitting Imerys Talc for $2.5 million in compensation.