JPMDL Transfers Talc Cases from Missouri to Defense-Friendly NJ Court

talc johnson & johnsonOverruling the objections of the plaintiffs, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPMDL) transferred four talcum powder cases against Johnson & Johnson out of federal courts in Missouri and Pennslyvania and into the defense-friendly District of New Jersey.

In September 2016, Johnson & Johnson persuaded a New Jersey judge to throw out two women’s lawsuits blaming the health-care company’s talcum powder for their ovarian cancer.

J&J is using the ruling to fend off more than 3,100 suits in state and federal courts accusing the drug maker of ignoring studies that linked its talc products to ovarian cancer. Judge Nelson Johnson in Atlantic City ruled that the women couldn’t produce medical evidence showing J&J’s Baby Powder caused cancer.

In the New Jersey cases, J&J said testimony from experts hired by the women’s lawyers to outline links between talc and ovarian cancer suffered from “multiple deficiencies” and didn’t provide legitimate grounds for the suits.

“The court’s decision appropriately reflects the science and facts at issue in this litigation,” gloated Carol Goodrich, a J&J spokeswoman. “Science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.”

Transfer to New Jersey

Plaintiffs in the federal Missouri actions had moved under Panel Rule 7.1 to vacate the JPMDL’s orders that conditionally transferred the actions to the District of New Jersey for inclusion in MDL No. 2738. Defendants Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., and Imerys Talc America, Inc., successfully opposed the motions.

The four cases are:

Eastern District of Missouri

  • GHORMLEY, ET AL. v. JOHNSON & JOHNSON, ET AL., C.A. No. 4:17-00585
  • KRUEGER, ET AL. v. JOHNSON & JOHNSON, INC., ET AL., C.A. No. 4:17-00839
  • HENSLEY, ET AL. v. JOHNSON & JOHNSON, ET AL., C.A. No. 4:17-00972

Eastern District of Pennsylvania

  • MOORE, ET AL. v. JOHNSON & JOHNSON, ET AL., C.A. No. 2:17-01164

The plaintiffs argued that federal subject matter jurisdiction was lacking, and that their motions to remand to state court were pending. “The JPMDL has held that jurisdictional issues generally do not present an impediment to transfer, as plaintiffs can present these arguments to the transferee judge,” the panel judges said.

Plaintiffs in the Moore action pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also argued that transfer of Moore is not right because that action involves a differently named defendant than the other actions pending in the MDL and different applicable state law.

“Transfer under Section 1407 does not need a complete identity of factual issues or parties as a prerequisite to transfer when the actions arise from a common factual core. See In re 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 201 F. Supp. 3d 1375, 1378 (J.P.M.L. 2016),” the JPMDL ruled.

“We find that these actions involve common questions of fact with the actions transferred to MDL No. 2738, and that transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.”

Fourth Mega-Verdict

The plaintiffs or their decedents developed ovarian or other gynecological cancer following perineal application of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products (namely, Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder). See In re Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Prods. Mktg., Sales Practices & Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2738, __ F. Supp. 3d __, 2016 WL 5845997 (J.P.M.L. Oct. 4, 2016).

In May 2017 a Missouri state court jury awarded a $110 million verdict in a talc case against Johnson & Johnson. It was the fourth mega-verdict delivered against Johnson & Johnson, which has known about the ovarian cancer risks since the 1970s. In 2016 juries returned verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million against J&J in lawsuits filed by women with ovarian cancer.

The case was Lois Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 1422-CC09326-01, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri before Judge Rex Burlison. More talc trials are set in St. Louis for July, with the first case in California, set to go to trial in July.

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Asked to Punish J&J, Jury Returns $110 Million Verdict in Talc Case

62-year-old Lois Slemp wasn't in court to hear the verdict because she was too ill to attend. Picture: Supplied
62-year-old Lois Slemp was too sick to be in court to hear the verdict. Picture: Supplied

Asked by plaintiff attorney Allen Smith to punish Johnson & Johnson for its “reprehensible” actions in selling cancer-causing talcum powder to women, a jury in St. Louis state court delivered a bombshell $110,000,000 verdict for the plaintiff.

Attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm of Ridgeland, MS, represented plaintiff Lois Slemp, age 62, of Virginia. She used J&J’s baby power and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

Slemp, whose cancer has since spread to her liver, was too ill to attend the trial. Her lawsuit is among more than 1,000 filed in St. Louis by women across the country, taking advantage of a Missouri law that allows suits to be filed there by plaintiffs with no connection to the state.

The case is Lois Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 1422-CC09326-01, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri before Judge Rex Burlison. More talc trials are set in St. Louis for June and July, with the first case in Caifornia set to go to trial in July.

An additional 233 lawsuits are pending against J&J before US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in MDL 2738 in New Jersey, IN RE: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation. She was also represented by Ted Meadows, Danielle Mason and David Dearing of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC of Montgomery, AL.

Fourth Mega-Verdict

It was the fourth mega-verdict delivered against Johnson & Johnson, which has known about the ovarian cancer risks since the 1970s. In 2016 juries returned verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million against J&J in lawsuits filed by women with ovarian cancer.

The St. Louis jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in all of her claims, including conspiracy, breach of implied warranty and negligence.

The jury also held Imerys Talc America liable for $100,000. 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.

Smith said in his closing argument that J&J is a $70 billion company and that a verdict to of $175 million would be only 1/4 of one percent of that value. “They not going to warn unless you all do something about it,” he told the jury, “and the only way you can do that through this court is through monetary damages.”

Evidence at the trial showed that J&J put corporate profits ahead of consumers. “These defendants…took a warlike mentality and fought regulation by influencing the FDA and the other agencies that are supposed to police this kind of talk, and there’s nothing more reprehensible than that,” he argued.

Spokespeople for the Johnson & Johnson pointed out that the federal judge in New Jersey excluded testimony from key experts who have testified for plaintiffs in St. Louis. Further, the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on May 10 challenging the first talc verdict, when jurors awarded Jacqueline Fox $72 million. And on March 3, 2017, a St. Louis jury returned a defense verdict for J&J and Imerys.

“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” attorney Ted Meadows said. “I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”

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J&J Trial: “Medical and Scientific Certainty” that Talc Caused Cancer

Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.
Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.

A Harvard epidemiologist told a Missouri jury Monday that he has reached “medical and scientific certainty” that a woman’s daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products for four decades was the primary reason she developed ovarian tumors, according to Law360.

During the 10th day of the trial in St. Louis, plaintiff Lois Slemp called to the stand epidemiologist and gynecologist Dr. Daniel Cramer. Slemp’s is the fifth case over the alleged link between J&J’s talcum powder products and ovarian cancer to head to trial in the city. J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys Talc America Inc., is a co-defendant.

Click to read the full article on Law360.

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Closely-Watched Talcum Powder-Cancer Trial Underway in St. Louis

Plaintiff attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm
Plaintiff attorney R. Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

The fifth in a series of trials is underway in St. Louis over the connection between Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing personal hygiene products and ovarian cancer.

In Judge Rex Burlison’s courtroom, 61-year-old Lois Slemp of Virginia is charging that Johnson & Johnson, the maker of the baby powder and Shower-to-Shower products she used for 40+ years, are the cause of her Stage III ovarian cancer.

More than 3,000 women are making the same claim, with 1,000 of them seeking damages in St. Louis, where the Slemp trial is underway.

Another 158 cases are filed in MDL 2738 before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in New Jersey, IN RE: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation.

Juries: talc causes cancer

Does talcum powder cause cancer? Three juries that looked at the science said “yes,” and returned verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million to the women plaintiffs, whose cancerous ovaries were found to contain talcum powder.

Plaintiffs charge that J&J and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, never warned consumers about the potential cancer risks from talc-containing products despite being aware of many scientific studies since the 1970s that found that talc is a carcinogen.

Slemp’s attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm told jurors they would see internal J&J documents that show a clear knowledge of a link between talc and ovarian cancer, and that the company engaged in extensive lobbying to avoid classification of talc as a carcinogen by regulatory agencies.

“This case is about corporate profit and maintaining a corporate image over human life,” Smith said, according to a Courtroom View Network webcast of the trial. “That’s what this case is about. And your verdict could prevent potentially hundreds of thousands of women from contracting one of the most deadly forms of cancer.”

J&J attorney Orlando Richmond of Butler Snow in Jackson, Mississippi, called Smith’s arguments as being made up of “bubble gum and tape.” J&J and Imerys argue that talc is no more dangerous than alcohol or red meat, neither of which carries a cancer warning label. “This is going to be a fight, and it’s going to be a fight because it’s a serious thing being accused of a product that causes ovarian cancer,” Richmond said.

J&J is also represented by Covington & Burling’s and by Shook Hardy & Bacon. Imerys is represented by Dykema Gossett Smith’s, and by Gordon & Rees.

J&J ignored scientific warnings for years

Johnson & Johnson has been ignoring scientific research connecting talcum powder to cancer for 46 years. In 1971, the first study was conducted that suggested an association between talc and ovarian cancer. This study was conducted by Dr. WJ Henderson and others in Cardiff, Wales.

  • In 1982, the first epidemiologic study was performed on talc powder use in the female genital area. This study was conducted by Dr. Daniel Cramer and others. They found a 92% increased risk of ovarian cancer with women who reported genital talc use.
  • More recently, in 2008 a study published by Cancer Epidemiology, researchers from Harvard University compared about 1,400 women, who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, to 1,800 healthy women. The baby powder cancer study found that the use of talcum powder was associated with a 36 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • A Cancer Prevention Research study in 2013 found that feminine hygiene use of talcum powder was associated with a 20 to 30 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • The results of the last three studies prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify talc as a “possible human carcinogen.

Baby powder is made from talc, which is a mineral primarily comprised of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Talc is structurally similar to asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. As a matter of fact, until the early 1970s, some talcum products were contaminated with asbestos.

When talc is ground to make baby powder, the mineral absorbs moisture and reduces friction. These properties make talc a widely used ingredient in personal hygiene products and cosmetic products, as well as many other consumer goods.

The problem is this: if talcum powder is used on the genitals, talc particles can easily migrate into the ovaries, where they remain trapped. These trapped talc particles cause inflammation, which can lead to the growth of cancer cells.

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Chicago Woman Names Walgreens in Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuit

A Chicago woman who used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower powder that she bought at Walgreens has named the retailer as a defendant in her lawsuit charging that the talc in the products gave her ovarian cancer.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by attorney Robert A. Clifford of the Clifford Law Offices in Chicago. Andrea Harris and Bart Harris v. Johnson & Johnson and Walgreen Co.

Litigation involving talcum powder is centered in the Missouri 22nd Circuit Court, which in March upheld a $70 million talcum powder verdict stands against J&J. Internal J&J memos showed the company was aware of studies linking talc powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer for decades, and more than 1,000 talcum powder-related lawsuits have been filed against the company.

Ovarian cancer diagnosis

The plaintiff, a semi-professional and competitive athlete, started routinely bought J&J’s baby powder at Walgreens for use in the perineal area in 2006. From 1984 to 1989 she did the same with Shower to Shower. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, and underwent surgery and subsequent treatment.

“J & J has a dedicated office and team specifically devoted to assessing, analyzing and promoting product purchases from its baby product line at Walgreens,” the complaint states.

“From offices in Illinois, J & J and Walgreens jointly analyze, assess, and strategize the most meaningful methods of selling, promoting and marketing its baby powder products. Moreover, J & J and Walgreens implement strategies to influence consumers’ purchase of J & J baby powder products from Walgreens, including through data analytics of customers’ purchases and loyalty and rewards programs.

“J & J and Walgreens jointly evaluate the products placed for sale and promotion in Walgreens’ stores, and thoroughly assess and discuss the safety, efficacy and suitably of products marketed and sold, including J & J baby powder products,” the complaint states.

22 studies show cancer risk

Since 1982, there have been approximately 22 epidemiologic studies providing data about the association of talc and ovarian cancer. Nearly all of these studies have reported an elevated risk for ovarian cancer associated with genital talc use in women.

Among the evidence to be presented at trial:

  • In 1983, a case-control study found a 150% increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder in the genital area. Hartge, P., et al. Talc and Ovarian Cancer. JAMA. 1983; 250(14): 1844.
  • In 1988, a case-control study of 188 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 539 control women found that 52% of the cancer patients habitually
    used talcum powder on the genital area before their cancer diagnosis. The study
    showed a 50% increase in risk of ovarian cancer in women that used talcum powder
    on their genital area and a positive dose-response relationship. Whittemore AS, et
    al. Personal and environmental characteristics related to epithelial ovarian cancer.
    II. Exposures to talcum powder, tobacco, alcohol, and coffee. Am. J. Epidemiol.
    1988 Dec; 128(6):1228-40.
  • A 1989 study looked at 235 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and
    451 controls, and found a 29% increased risk in ovarian cancer with women who
    reported genital talcum powder use more than once each week. Booth, M., et al.
    Risk factors for ovarian cancer: a case-control study. Br J Cancer. 1989 Oct;
    60(4):592-8.
  • In 1992, a case-control study found a statistically significant 80% increased risk of
    ovarian cancer in women with more than 10,000 lifetime perineal applications of
    talc, demonstrating a positive dose-response relationship. Harlow BL, et al.
    Perineal exposure to talc and ovarian cancer risk. Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Jul;
    80(1):19-26.
  • Another 1992 case-control study reported a 70% increased risk from genital talc
    use and a 379% increased risk of ovarian cancer of women who used talc on
    sanitary napkins in their genital area. Rosenblatt, K.A. et al. Mineral fiber exposure
    and the development of ovarian cancer. Gynecol Oncol. 1992 Apr; 45(l):20-5.
  • In 1995, the largest study of its kind to date found a statistically significant 27%
    increased risk in ovarian cancer for women who regularly use talc in the abdominal
    or perineal area. Purdie, D., et al. Reproductive and other factors and risk of
    epithelial ovarian cancer: An Australian case-control study. Survey of Women’s
    Health Study Group. Int JCancer. 1995 Sep 15; 62(6):678-84.
  • In 1996, a case-control study found a statistically significant 97% increased risk of
    ovarian cancer in women who used what they described as a “moderate” or higher
    use of talc-based powders in their genital area. See Shushan, A., et al. Human
    menopausal gonadotropin and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Fertil. Steril.
    1996 Jan; 65(l):13-8.
  • In 1997, a case-control study of 313 women with ovarian cancer and 422 without
    this disease found that the women with cancer were more likely to have applied
    talcum powder to their external genitalia area. Women using these products had a
    statistically significant 50% to 90% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Cook,
    LS, et al. Perineal powder exposure and the risk of ovarian cancer. Am. J Epidemiol.
    1997 Mar 1; 145(5):459-65.
  • In 1997, a case-control study involving over 1,000 women found a statistically
    significant increased risk of 42% for ovarian cancer for women who applied talc
    via sanitary napkins to their perineal area. Chang, S, et al. Perineal talc exposure
    and risk of ovarian carcinoma. Cancer. 1997 Jun 15; 79(12):2396-401.
  • In 1998, a case-control study found a 149% increased risk of ovarian cancer in
    women who used talc-based powders on their perineal area. Godard, B., et al. Risk
    factors for familial and sporadic ovarian cancer among French Canadians: a case-
    control study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Aug; 179(2):403-10.
  • Dr. Daniel Cramer conducted another case-control study in 1999, observing 563
    women newly diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 523 women in a control.
    The study found a statistically significant 60% increased risk of ovarian cancer in
    women that used talc-based body powders on their perineal area and an 80%
    increase in risk for women with over 10,000 lifetime applications. Cramer, DW, et
    al. Genital talc exposure and risk of ovarian cancer. Int J Cancer. 1999 May 5;
    81 (3):351-56.
  • In 2000, a case-control study of over 2,000 women found a statistically significant
    50% increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use in women. Ness, RB, et al. Factors related to inflammation of the ovarian epithelium and risk of ovariancancer. Epidemiology. 2000 Mar; 11 (2): 111 -7.
  • In 2004, a case-control study of nearly 1,400 women from 22 counties in Central
    California found a statistically significant 37% increased risk of epithelial ovarian
    cancer from women’s genital talc use, and a 77% increased risk of serous invasive
    ovarian cancer from women’s genital talc use. Importantly, this study also
    examined women’s use of cornstarch powders as an alternative to talc, and found
    no increased risk in ovarian cancer in women in the cornstarch group, further
    supporting the causal connection between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. Mills,
    PK, et al. Perineal talc exposure and epithelial ovarian cancer risk in the Central
    Valley of California. Int J Cancer. 2004 Nov 10; 112(3):458-64.
  • In 2008, a combined study of over 3,000 women from a New England-based case-
    control study found a general 36% statistically significant increased risk of
    epithelial ovarian cancer from genital talc use and a 60% increased risk of the serous
    invasive ovarian cancer subtype. The study also found a strong dose response
    relationship between the cumulative talc exposure and incidence of ovarian cancer,
    adding further support to the causal relationship. Gates, MA, et al. Talc Use,
    Variants of the GSTM1, GSTT1, and NAT2 Genes, and Risk of Epithelial Ovarian
    Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Sep; 17(9):2436-44.
  • A 2009 case-control study of over 1,200 women found the risk of ovarian cancer
    increased significantly with increasing frequency and duration of talc use, with an
    overall statistically significant 53% increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital
    talc use. That increased risk rose dramatically, to 108%, in women with the longest
    duration and most frequent talc use. Wu, AH, et al. Markers of inflammation and
    risk of ovarian cancer in Los Angeles County. Int. J Cancer. 2009 Mar 15;
    124(6):1409-15.
  • In 2011, another case-control study of over 2,000 women found a 27% increased
    risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use. Rosenblatt, KA, et al. Genital powder
    exposure and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 2011
    May; 22(5):737-42.
  • In June of 2013, a pooled analysis of over 18,000 women in eight case-control
    studies found a 20% to 30% increased risk of women developing epithelial ovarian
    cancer from genital powder use. The study concluded by stating, “Because there
    are few modifiable risk factors for ovarian cancer, avoidance of genital powders
    may be a possible strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence.” Terry, KL, et al.
    Genital powder use and risk of ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 8,525 cases and
    9,859 controls. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Aug; 6(8):811-21.

    Other evidence cited by the complaint:

  • In 1993, the United States National Toxicology Program published a study on the
    toxicity of non-asbestiform talc and found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity. Talc was found to be a carcinogen, with or without the presence of asbestos-like fibers.
  • On November 10, 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition mailed a letter to then
    Johnson & Johnson C.E.O, Ralph Larson, informing his company that studies as far back as 1960’s “. . . show[ ] conclusively that the frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area poses a serious health risk of ovarian cancer.” The letter cited a recent study by Dr. Bernard Harlow from Harvard Medical School confirming this fact and quoted a portion of the study where Dr. Harlow and his colleagues discouraged the use of talc in the female genital area. The letter further stated that 14,000 women per year die from ovarian cancer and that this type of cancer is very difficult to detect and has a low survival rate. The letter concluded by requesting that Johnson & Johnson withdraw talc products from the market because of the alternative of cornstarch powders, or at a minimum, place warning information on its talc-based body powders about ovarian cancer risk they pose.
  • In 1996, the condom industry stopped dusting condoms with talc due to the growing health concerns.
  • In February of 2006, the International Association for the Research of Cancer (IARC) part of the World Health Organization published a paper whereby they classified perineal use of talc-based body powder as a “Group 2B” human carcinogen.
  • In approximately 2006, the Canadian government under The Hazardous Products Act and associated Controlled Products Regulations classified talc as a “D2A,” “very toxic,”
    “cancer causing” substance under its Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Asbestos is also classified as “D2A”.
  • In 2006, Imerys Talc began placing a warning on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) it provided to Defendants regarding the talc it sold to them to be used in the Products.

“Defendants had a duty to know and warn about the hazards associated with the use
of the Products. Defendants failed to inform customers and end users of the Products of a known catastrophic health hazard associated with the use of the Products. In addition. Defendants procured and disseminated false, misleading, and biased information regarding the safety of the Products to the public and used influence over governmental and regulatory bodies regarding talc,” the complaint states.

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$70 Million Talcum Powder Verdict Stands, as Missouri Court Denies J&J Post-Trial Motions

Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.
Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.

Johnson & Johnson and other talcum powder lawsuit defendants have been denied their bid to overturn the $70 million verdict awarded to the plaintiff in the state’s third ovarian cancer trial.

In orders issued last week, the Missouri 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis denied all of the defendants’ post-trial motions, including those that sought a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, and a reduction in punitive damages. (Case No 1422-CC09012-01)

On October 27, 2016, a 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.

Internal J&J memos showed the company was aware of studies linking talc powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer for decades.

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.

“We are pleased that the verdict was upheld, and are very encouraged with the Court’s determination that the punitive damage award was not grossly excessive nor arbitrary,'” says Sandy A. Liebhard, a partner at Bernstein Liebhard LLP, a nationwide law firm representing victims of defective medical devices, drugs and consumer products.

Talcum Powder Litigation

More than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed in U.S. courts, all of which claim that the long-term genital application of Johnson & Johnson’s products promotes the development of ovarian cancer. Missouri’s third trial concluded last October, and involved a 62-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012. In the decades prior to her diagnosis, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder had been a regular part of the Plaintiff’s daily feminine hygiene routine.

Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court has convened four talcum powder trials over the past year. Only one jury has found in favor of the defense. Plaintiffs in two other trials were awarded compensatory and punitive damages amounting to $72 million and $55 million.

Women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following the regular, repeated use of talc-based products for feminine hygiene purposes may be eligible to file their own talcum powder lawsuit.

Also see: Progress in Talcum Powder Multidistrict Litigation in NJ

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Progress in Talcum Powder Multidistrict Litigation in NJ

Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.
Johnson & Johnson has known about cancer risks since the 1970s.

Dozens of talcum powder lawsuits filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders are moving forward in a multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.

According to a letter submitted to the Court on March 3, the parties have been meeting and conferring via telephone on a weekly basis, and have already agreed on a Protective Order. The order was submitted to and entered by the Court on March 1. The letter also indicated that discussions regarding an ESI protocol, Preservation Order and alternative options to a Plaintiff Fact Sheet are ongoing. (In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation – MDL No.2738).

Most of the action in talcum powder litigation has been in state court in St. Louis. Jurors cleared Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier on March 3 of responsibility for ovarian cancer a woman claims was caused by years of using the consumer giant’s baby powder products. Swann v. Johnson & Johnson, 1422-CC09326-01.

The jury, in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit, deliberated about seven hours before finding against Nora Daniels in her claims against J&J and Imerys Talc America.

3,100 product liability claims

Johnson & Johnson reported in a recent filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) that it has been named a defendant in at least 3,100 product liability claims involving its talc-based powders and ovarian cancer. As of February 15, 134 cases were pending in the multidistrict litigation underway in the District of New Jersey.

Plaintiffs pursuing talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claim that the regular and repeated genital application of Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based powders contributes to the development of ovarian cancer. They accuse the company of intentionally ignoring research dating back to the 1970s that suggests such a link, and assert that Johnson & Johnson’s alleged failure to warn consumers of this risk was driven by a desire to protect revenues derived from the sale of its talcum powder products.

One of the nation’s largest talcum powder litigations is underway in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis, where four cases have already gone to trial. Only one jury has found in favor of Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs in three other trials were awarded compensatory and punitive damages amounting to $72 million, $70 million and $55 million. Missouri’s fifth talcum powder trial is scheduled to begin in April. (Case No 1422-CC09012-01)

Women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following the long-term use of talc-based products for feminine hygiene purposes may be eligible to file their own talcum powder lawsuit. To learn more, please visit Bernstein Liebhard LLP’s website, or call 800-511-5092 to arrange for a free, no obligation case review.

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New Study Suggests Genital Talc Use Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk by 20%

talcum powder cancerYet another study has found a possible link between the genital use of talcum powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The research, which was published this month in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, consisted of a meta-analysis of 24 previously published statistical analyses and several prospective studies involving more than 300,000 ovarian cancer patients.

Overall, women who used talc had about a 20% increased risk for ovarian cancer compared to those who did not. The report’s authors characterized the findings as “statistically significant.”

“The publication of this research comes as thousands of ovarian cancer victims and their families pursue talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. The findings only add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the regular and repeated use of talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes may contribute to the development of the disease,” says attorney Sandy A. Liebhard of Bernstein Liebhard LLP in New York.

Nationwide Talcum Powder Litigation

Johnson & Johnson is a defendant in more than 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in courts around the country. All were filed on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following long-term use of Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower for feminine hygiene purposes. Plaintiffs allege that since the 1970s, a growing number of studies have pointed to a link between genital talc use and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. They further assert that Johnson & Johnson has long been aware of this research, but placed profits before consumer safety by withholding information and warnings from the public.

One of the country’s largest talcum powder litigations is now underway in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis, where three trials were convened last year. All three juries delivered verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay compensatory and punitive damage awards totaling $55 million, $72 million and $70 million. Jury selection for the litigation’s fourth trial is scheduled to begin on January 30th.

In addition to the cases pending in Missouri, nearly 100 talcum powder lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson have been centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. (In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation – MDL No.2738)

An additional 224 cases are pending in a multicounty litigation established in New Jersey’s Atlantic County Superior Court. (In Re: Talc-Based Powder Products – Case No. 300).

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Missouri Court Now Open to Non-Resident Plaintiffs in Talc-Related Cancer Trials

talc johnson & johnsonIn a major victory for plaintiffs in litigation against Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, the Missouri Court of Appeals opened its trial courts to 1,350 plaintiffs who are not Missouri residents.

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.

Also read:

Behind the $55 Million Talc Verdict: J&J Knew About Cancer Risks Since the 1970s

Plaintiff victory

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.

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.

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Citing NJ Decision, Johnson & Johnson Demands MDL Hearing on Whether Talc Causes Cancer

talc johnson & johnsonFlatly denying that perineal use of talc causes ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson called on US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to order Daubert motions to strike expert witnesses on general and specific causation.

There are 57 actions pending in MDL 2738, In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practicesand Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:16-md-02738-FLW-LHG.

The issue will turn on whether the judge allows the plaintiff’s experts to testify.

The expert witnesses were excluded by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Nelson C. Johnson in the coordinated Multi-County New Jersey talc litigation. See Carl v. Johnson & Johnson, No. ATL-L-6540-14, 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2102 (Law Div. Sept. 2, 2016), appeal pending.

Experts lead to three 8-figure verdicts

However, the expert witnesses testified in Missouri state courts resulting in three 8-figure verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in trials before Judge Rex M. Burlison:

  • 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.

J&J called on the MDL court to hold a “science day” in January 2017 when experts for each party can outline their positions and arguments. The company requested that the court select several cases that can be worked up for initial expert discovery on general and specific causation. J&J said it has already disclosed 500,000 pages of documents in discovery and that several corporate officers hae been deposed.

Facing widespread litigation

J&J is also facing litigation in state courts:

  • About 200  single-plaintiff cases are pending in the New Jersey state court coordinated proceeding before Judge Johnson.
  • 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.
  • Finally, 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.

Three class actions have been transferred to this MDL proceeding: Mihalich, Estrada and Joseph.

  • In Mihalich v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 14-CV-600-DRH-SCW, originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, plaintiffs seek to represent a proposed class of all consumers who purchased Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder in the state of Illinois, asserting causes of action under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act and for unjust enrichment.
  • In Estrada v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 2:14-cv-01051-TLNKJN (E.D. Cal. filed June 20, 2014), originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, plaintiff seeks to represent a proposed class of consumers who have purchased J&J baby powder in California, alleging violations of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Business & Professions Code, as well as negligent misrepresentation and breach of implied warranty.
  • In Joseph v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 3:16-cv-00590-JJB-RLB (E.D. La.), originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, plaintiffs seek to represent a proposed personal injury class, alleging negligence, intentional misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, failure to warn, design and manufacturing defect, breach of warranty and violation of Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Also read: Behind the $55 Million Talc Verdict: J&J Knew About Cancer Risks Since the 1970s

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