JOHNSON & JOHNSON SCORES A POST-TRIAL DEFENSE RULING IN CALIFORNIA STATE COURT
Last week a California state court set aside a $417 million verdict awarded in August 2017, against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman that claimed J&J’s talc-based product, Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her ovarian cancer after years of feminine hygiene use.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson entered a ruling that’s a further setback facing women and family members who accuse J&J of not warning consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products. There are now thousands of lawsuits filed against J&J over the claims that use of talc products leads to ovarian cancer, the cases are files in both state and federal venues across the country including the federal Multidistrict Litigation in J&J Talcum Powder MDL 2738 (USDC New Jersey) as well as thousands of Missouri State court cases, (see J&J Talc Cases in Missouri State Court), where plaintiffs have successfully obtained large verdicts against J&J over the last two years. A single talc verdict won in Missouri state court, was recently overturned based on the June 2017 US Supreme Court Plavix ruling, which defined a plaintiff’s residence as the jurisdictional guide to where state court cases can be filed.
There is another J&J talc related trial currently underway in front of Judge Edward Simpson, in the same LA County Court, where there plaintiff has alleged use of J&J’s talcum powder products caused her to contract Mesothelioma. This trial started October 19th after plaintiff Tina Herford’s first trial was declared a mistrial on October 6, 2017, when Ms. Herford made a statement on the witness stand related to “talc use and ovarian cancer” causing Judge Simpson to declare a mistrial and quickly move to get the new trial started within 10 days. The J&J California state court trials and others soon to follow across the country, will keep J&J defense counsel busy for the foreseeable future, as more and more of J&J’s behind the scenes manipulation of R&D, paid research papers and suppression of adverse scientific publications is now coming to light, with all this conduct being introduced as evidence in the trials.
Judge Nelson’s ruling followed the jury’s decision in August to hit J&J with the largest verdict to date in Talc litigation, awarding California resident Eva Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. This trial was fast-tracked due to Ms. Echeverria’s onset of stage 4 cancer and fears that she would not survive the wait for a trial set past August 2017.
Nelson reversed the jury verdict and granted J&J’s request for a new trial, ruling the August trial was underpinned by errors and insufficient evidence on both sides, culminating in excessive damages. The judge added that there also had been misconduct of the jury during the trial.
Mark Robinson, who represented the woman in her lawsuit, said he would file an appeal immediately, “We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product,” he stated.
J&J in a statement said it was pleased with the verdict, adding that it will continue to defend itself in additional trials. J&J said declarations by two jurors after the trial showed that three members of the 12-person jury who voted against finding the company liable were improperly excluded from determining damages.
J&J also stated that it faces lawsuits by 4,800 plaintiffs nationally asserting talc-related claims. Many of those cases are in California, where Echeverria’s case was the first to go to trial, and in the previously referenced Missouri court, where J&J has faced five trials, with very limited success.
The Missouri litigation led to four plaintiff verdicts against J&J in which juries issued verdicts totaling $307 million, with J&J only winning a defense verdict in a single trial.
But the Missouri cases do have a legal hurdle to address, the cases have largely been brought by out-of-state plaintiffs, hand now face jurisdictional questions after the US Supreme Court issued the June 19, 2017 Plavix ruling that limited where personal injury lawsuits could be filed, see U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down California Ruling in Bristol-Myers’ Plavix Jurisdictional Case.
On October 17, 2017 , a Missouri appellate court threw out a US$72 million verdict by a jury in February 2016 to the family of a deceased Alabama woman after ruling the case should not have been tried in St. Louis, see Missouri Appeals Court Throws Out $72 Million Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cancer Verdict.
Mass Tort Nexus will publish additional case updates and additional information regarding all Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder related litigation across the country as they develop.