US District Judge Mark A. Kearney ruled that a Pennsylvania woman’s case may proceed, charging that talc supplied by Imerys, the world largest talc producer, and sold by Johnson & Johnson caused her death by ovarian cancer.
Nancy Bors brought the action as administrator of the estate of Maureen Broderick Milliken against Imerys, which 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.
The case is Nancy Bors v. Johnson & Johnson, US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 16-2866.
Imerys brought a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction. Imerys argued it is is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California. Imerys does not own, possess, or lease property in Pennsylvania. It does not have an address, phone number, or bank account in Pennsylvania, and does not sell talc in Pennsylvania for baby powder or ship or distribute talc in Pennsylvania for baby powder. The commercial transactions between Imerys and Johnson & Johnson did not occur in Pennsylvania.
Bors admitted Imerys’ only connection with Pennsylvania arises from its 2007 decision to register to do business as a foreign corporation in Pennsylvania — and that was sufficient for the judge to find personal jurisdiction over the company.
“Pennsylvania’s statute specifically advises the registrant of the jurisdictional effect of registering to do business. In 2007, long after Pennsylvania enacted its specific notice statute and after our Court of Appeals confirmed personal jurisdiction based on registration, Imerys elected to register to do business in Pennsylvania as a foreign corporation. Imerys’ compliance with Pennsylvania’s registration statute amounted to consent to personal jurisdiction. Consent remains a valid form of establishing personal jurisdiction under the Pennsylvania registration statute,” the court held.
The court also ruled that the lawsuit stated three claims, for negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy and acting in concern under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices Law.
Numerous research studies have shown the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. For details read Behind the $55 Million Talc Verdict: J&J Knew About Cancer Risks Since the 1970s.
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.
The hearing will be on Sept. 29 at the US Courthouse in Washington, DC, for In Re Johnson & Johnson “Baby Powder” And “Shower To Shower” Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (PDF), MDL Docket No. 2738.