Judge Names Plaintiff's Steering Committee in Talcum Powder Mass Tort Litigation

Attorney Leigh O'Dell of Beasley Allen
Attorney Leigh O’Dell of Beasley Allen

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson of the District of New Jersey appointed attorney Leigh O’Dell of Beasley Allen in Montgomery, Alabama, as Co-Lead Counsel for consolidated Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court concerning talcum powder’s link to ovarian cancer. Michelle Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel, a firm based in Washington, D.C., will also serve as Co-Lead Counsel.

The judge named Christopher Michael Placitella of Cohen Placitella & Roth in Red Bank, NJ, as the Liaison Counsel for Plaintiffs.

There are 60 actions pending in MDL 2738, In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:16-md-02738-FLW-LHG. The MDL was created in October 2016.

The plaintiffs’ executive committee will be made up of Warren T. Burns of Burns Charest LLP in Dallas; Richard Golomb of Golomb & Honik, P.C., in Philadelphia; Richard H. Meadow of The Lanier Law Firm, P.C., in Houston; and Hunter J. Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC in New York.

Eleven additional attorneys from across the country make up the plaintiffs’ steering committee:

  • Laurence S. Berman of Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman in Philadelphia
  • Timothy G. Blood of Blood, Hurst & O’Reardon LLP in San Diego
  • Sindhu S. Daniel of Baron & Budd, P.C., in Dallas
  • Jeff S. Gibson of Cohen & Malad in Indianapolis
  • Kristie M. Hightower of Lundy, Lundy, Soileau & South LLP in Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Daniel R. Lapinski of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., in Woodbridge, N.J.
  • Victoria Maniatis of Sanders Phillips Grossman LLC in Garden City, N.J.
  • Carmen S. Scott of Motley Rice LLC in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
  • Eric H. Weinberg of The Weinberg Law Firm in New Brunswick, N.J.
  • C. Mark Whithead III of the Whitehead Law Firm in Lafayette, La.
  • Richard L. Root of Morris Bart LLC in New Orleans.

Three 8-figure verdicts

The lawsuits allege that defendant Johnson & Johnson is liable for personal injuries or wrongful deaths that resulted from ovarian or uterine cancer in women who used the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene.

Beasley Allen principal Ted Meadows was lead plaintiffs attorney in three trials in Missouri state court that resulted in verdicts of $55 million, $70 million and $72 million against Johnson & Johnson this year. See Verdict No. 3: Jury Awards $70M Against Johnson & Johnson in Cancer Link to Talcum Powder

  • In October, a jury awarded Plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini $70 million after agreeing the products contributed to the development of her ovarian cancer. The verdict included $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million in punitive damages against Imerys Talc America, Inc., which supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson. This was the first jury verdict against Imerys in this litigation.
  • On May 2, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million, which included $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
  • In February, another jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million, holding Johnson & Johnson liable for her ovarian cancer death. In that verdict, $62 million was punitive damages. The purpose of awarding punitive damages is to punish a company for wrongdoing and to compel it to change its actions.

J&J never warned users

“Despite numerous credible scientific studies showing an increased risk of ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson has never warned users of their Baby Powder or other talcum-powder based products. Internal documents make clear that J&J and its principal supplier of talc have been aware of the risks of ovarian cancer for many years,” O’Dell said.

“Rather than act responsibly and warn consumers, Johnson & Johnson suppressed safety information and actively misled women about the dangers of genital talc use. The company’s conduct is reprehensible, and we look forward to continuing to pursue justice on behalf of these deserving women and their families,” she said.

J&J is also facing litigation in state courts:

  • New Jersey: about 200 single-plaintiff cases are pending in the New Jersey state court coordinated proceeding before Judge Nelson Johnson.
  • Missouri: 20 multi-plaintiff cases (with about 1,469 plaintiffs) are pending in the aggregate claim litigation proceedings pending before several judges in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, St. Louis (City), Missouri.
  • California: 60 cases (with about 249 plaintiffs) are pending in a California coordinated proceeding, Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding No. 4877. Initially, those cases were assigned to Judge Maren E. Nelson of the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles.

Scientific research, including more than 20 well-executed scientific studies, shows that women who have ever used talcum powder for genital hygiene:

  • Are at a 30-60 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to those who have never used it.
  • In the U.S., ovarian cancer affects about 24,000 women a year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women.
  • An estimated that 14,000 women die from talc-related ovarian cancer each year.
  • One medical expert calculates that this use of talcum powder leads to nearly 10 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases reported annually.

“This modifiable risk factor, if eliminated, could prevent the diagnosis and save the lives of thousands of woman each year. Yet Johnson & Johnson has ignored and attempted to discredit these scientific studies, and still refuses to provide warning labels on talc-containing products about the link between talc and ovarian cancer,” O’Dell said.


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