Why J&J is Attempting to Consolidate the Talc Cases in New JerseyJanuary 23, 2017
Women across the country are filing suit against Johnson & Johnson alleging its talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. So far, three St. Louis juries have agreed with the women and required Johnson & Johnson to pay just under $200 million in total. The litigation has shown that women may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer by using talcum powder for personal hygiene. Evidence indicates that Johnson & Johnson has known its talcum powder products such as baby powder can increase women’s risk of cancer for decades, but refused to warn its consumers. Since these verdicts, more than 1,700 cases have been filed in St. Louis.
Some of the first plaintiffs requested that the cases be centralized for convenience. Many locations were requested, but on October 4th, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation announced the formation of talc multi-district litigation would be overseen by one federal judge in United States District Court in New Jersey. This order also transferred eleven pending cases and forty-three potential actions from around the country to New Jersey. Johnson & Johnson believes that a New Jersey judge will be “most familiar with the issues,” is the most convenient, and the court is not as busy as others. The Panel supports its decision stating New Jersey is in close proximity to a large number of actions on the East Coast, and the majority of witnesses and evidence is in New Jersey.
Not coincidently, Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Jersey. The company has also had the most success in New Jersey courts. The first two cases filed were dismissed before even reaching trial. The same New Jersey judge, who currently presides over approximately 200 cases, disqualified the testimony of experts in two trials, providing a favorable outcome for Johnson & Johnson. Without this testimony, the judge entered a summary judgment for Johnson & Johnson. This means that the Judge found in favor of Johnson & Johnson before even reaching trial. New Jersey law takes a different approach than Missouri, which led the judge to exclude the expert testimony. The purpose of the testimony was to show the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, the judge held that the scientific testimony was too speculative. This testimony was identical to what the juries heard in St. Louis and used to support their findings against Johnson & Johnson.
One purpose of consolidating cases into multi-district litigation is to prevent discovery from being duplicated throughout individual cases which can lead to conflicting outcomes such as St. Louis and New Jersey trials. In multi-district litigation, judges often hold bellwether trials once discovery is completed. A bellwether trial is a test case when there are thousands of individuals suing for the same issue. The evidence, testimony, and verdicts of these trials helps lawyers determine what they must do to win their case. In New Jersey, Johnson and Johnson undoubtedly will seek the same or similar exclusions of expert testimony in the upcoming bellwether trials. The outcome of these bellwethers may have an impact on all the remaining cases that will be sent back to their original court and tried.
If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for feminine hygiene, it is important to hold companies like Johnson & Johnson accountable. The experienced attorneys with the Amaro Law Firm understand the importance of expert testimony and how to hold manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson responsible. To determine if you are eligible, contact the Amaro Law Firm’s attorneys today to learn more and schedule a free consultation.