An Update on Talc Powder Lawsuits

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May 07, 2019
Edward Smith

An Update on Talc Powder Lawsuits

Recently, a California state jury awarded $29.5 million to a woman who developed mesothelioma from the asbestos present in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. The verdict came on March 13th, after J&J had already settled two mesothelioma lawsuits instead of letting the cases proceed for trial. Sharon Pipes, one of the plaintiffs, claimed that J&J baby powder contains asbestos which caused her to develop mesothelioma. The jury in the Oklahoma City state court deliberated for nearly three hours before reaching the verdict and ordering J&J to pay the settlement on March 27th.

Meanwhile, a trial case involving the claims of a 36-year old woman was settled on the same day in Los Angeles.

However, in another mesothelioma case against J&J, the jury in a New Jersey state court reached the verdict in favor of the multinational company which employs thousands of people and develops products that make everyone’s life better, for the most part, concluding there was no asbestos in their baby powder.

Several appeals are still pending in ovarian cancer cases against J&J talcum powder.

The Brower Case

A prominent law firm is representing the family of Diane Brower who died of stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2016. Mrs. Brower had been using Johnson and Johnson talc for feminine hygiene twice a day since she was in her teens. The 65-year old woman was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and died three years later. The trial is set in Georgia in July of 2019.

In this case, the attorneys representing J&J have challenged the expertise and credentials of three experts who are going to testify on behalf of Mrs. Brower. It should be noted that the expert witness qualifying standards followed by Georgia state courts are similar to federal court.

The J&J attorneys have requested to exclude the testimony of the following experts who are expected to testify in the case:

  • James Barter, director of Gynecologic Oncology Research at Holy Cross Hospital in Rockville, Maryland
  • John Godleski, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health
  • Laura Plunkett, a board-certified toxicologist, and pharmacologist

On March 26th, these challenges were rejected by Judge Jane Morrison who ruled that all of the three experts will be allowed to testify in the upcoming trial. The jury trial is set to begin on July 15th.

The plaintiff’s lawyers have issued a statement saying that these medical experts are highly experienced and respected in their specialties, and their opinions are based on years of rigorous scientific training. The statement also said that Johnson and Johnson have been continuously ignoring the concerns of the medical community regarding the connection between cancer and talcum powder.

A Multi-District Litigation (MDL) Case

Even though J&J talc suppliers, Imerys Talc America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, the MDL is still proceeding. While the plaintiffs’ experts submitted their depositions in late 2018 and early 2019, depositions of defense experts were submitted in March and April of 2019.

The hearing of the case is scheduled to begin on July 22nd when experts from both sides will testify.

Johnson & Johnson Desperate to Transfer All Cases to Bankruptcy Court

The J&J lawyers have made it clear that they want a federal bankruptcy judge to take over the case. The billion-dollar company has over 2,400 baby powder lawsuits on their hands, and they don’t want to risk it all by going to a jury trial.

This is being seen as a desperate attempt to avoid accountability for their wrongdoing and deny thousands of victims their right to pursue justice in state courts.

The company is essentially trying to invoke legal protections that come with declaring bankruptcy – without declaring bankruptcy. Their talc supplier, Imerys Talc America Inc., is behind the idea.

To dismiss these individual lawsuits would be a grave injustice to all the victims and their families who have suffered from J&J’s talcum products.

Since the company has not filed for bankruptcy protection, they would usually not be entitled to ask that the state court litigation be stopped or transferred to a federal bankruptcy court.

However, Johnson & Johnson claims that there is a special bankruptcy law provision that enables the Imerys creditors (who have strong financial ties to the talcum powder miner) to demand a speedy resolution of the lawsuits.

At present, the company is looking at over 14,000 claims stating their talcum powder caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

Interestingly, a large number of internal documents and scientific evidence have emerged that indicate that the higher-ups within the company have been aware of their product’s hazards for several decades.

The company is continuing to deny that its products ever contained asbestos or carcinogens; they still stand behind their product 100%, saying their talcum powder has never caused a life-threatening disease on its own.

Out of the 14,000 claims, over 11,000 have already been filed in federal courts around the country. These cases have been consolidated in MDL in New Jersey before a federal court judge for information exchanges in the pre-trial stage.

The company is requesting to set up a similar treatment of the state court cases in the federal court in Delaware.

Desperate Times Push J&J to Take Desperate Measures

It seems that the company is not trying to bring cases to Delaware that are in the jury-selection stage or have already gone to trial. They are also not including any verdicts on appeal as part of the transfer requested by their army of lawyers.

This move indicates that J&J is desperately trying to avoid showing its internal documents to the state court juries. This is clearly an attempt to hide the health risks caused by their talcum powder.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have already discovered several documents dating back all the way to 1970 that prove J&J knew their talc could cause ovarian cancer

The internal documents, including communication between the superior officials and research studies, also reveal that asbestos was present in their talc and it could cause cancer with prolonged use.

That’s why ever since 2006, Imerys (talc supplier to J&J) sends the talcum containers to J&J with a label that warns the users about the possible risk of ovarian cancer (if the product is used on the genitals).

This warning was never passed on to the mass consumers.

Watch YouTube Video: Baby Powder Tainted by Asbestos, Johnson and Johnson Knew for Decades. MSNBC reports on a new claim that company Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder was tainted with asbestos.

Sacramento Talc Powder Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a talc powder injury lawyer in Sacramento. You will need the best possible legal advice in your talc powder personal injury case if you or a loved one has been a victim of talc powder injury. Call me today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

I’m a member of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Forum.

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Photo by Valerie 7827 on Flickr

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