Since my last blog on this topic, the baby powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson has proceeded actively. There have been several important developments.
First, in the federal court proceedings in New Jersey—the so-called multi-district litigation (MDL)—the trial court ruled that the plaintiffs' expert witnesses were qualified to render opinions on the causal links between talcum powder and ovarian and other cancers. This important ruling allows thousands of cases to go forward.
The parties and the MDL trial judge will now decide upon “bell weather” cases that will proceed to trial. The outcomes of these cases will dictate the ultimate resolution of the many other cases in the MDL.
In the meantime, in other talc litigation against J&J outside the MDL, plaintiffs have won important rulings. Just this week, a Missouri appellate court ordered J&J to pay $2.1 billion in damages to women who asserted that their ovarian cancer was caused by the talc in baby powder. The original jury verdict was $4.69 billion, and the appellate court reduced that amount.
The court found that J&J's internal memos dating back decades proved J&J had knowledge of the dangers of talc but that J&J considered baby powder to be the “golden egg” and “company trust mark”. The court stated that “a reasonable inference from all of this evidence is that, motivated by profits, defendants disregarded the safety of consumers despite their knowledge the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer.”
In New Jersey, a state court jury awarded $750 million to four plaintiffs who alleged that J&J's baby powder caused mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by the known carcinogen asbestos. Many talc cases allege that talc and asbestos are often mixed together in the mining process. J&J denies these allegations as it does all the talc-related allegations.
The third major development is that J&J has stopped selling talc products in North America. It still markets the product elsewhere. Despite J&J's consistent denials, this move appears to concede that the 19,000 talc cases pending against J&J are having a major effect. In our view, the public is much safer without this product on store shelves.
Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian continues to pursue talc litigation and welcomes any inquiries.