“Women alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talc baby powder caused their ovarian cancer have racked up a trio of trial victories in St. Louis totaling $200 million,” Law360 reports. The site asks, “Is Talc The New Tobacco?” and writes that the legal community is attentively watching the “potentially promising” talc litigation; “Verdicts Show Potential” the headline read. In fact, its report on the results from the most recent trial made it into the top 10 hottest stories summary.
Law360 interviewed veteran plaintiffs attorney Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, who heads up several of the biggest product liability cases in the nation. “Talc is a widely used product, long-concealed and recently revealed as a health threat,” she said. “There is thus some analogy to tobacco there. The injuries are real, and the science may be developing in the direction of stronger causation. These first trial verdicts are early warning signs.”
She pointed out a key difference between talc and tobacco, that talc consumers don’t have the added complication of tobacco addiction and can switch to safe alternatives at any time.
In its discussion, the site says that talc litigation is still in relative infancy and that the stakes are high with the Missouri verdicts as well as the cases that never made it to trial in New Jersey all headed to appellate courts. It refers to the Missouri trials as proving grounds where both sides have been refining their arguments for the potentially thousands of trials to come.
Law360 spoke to Ted Meadows of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC, who represents talc plaintiffs in Missouri, New Jersey and California, who said that with each trial new evidence becomes available enabling the plaintiffs’ trial team to come in with an even stronger case.
“We used additional documents in each trial, primarily because the defendants try to defend the case a little differently,” Meadows said. “When they do that, they open up doors for us to bring in new documents to combat their defenses. It helps us kind of reshape and reformulate the theories on the case and the way we approach them. There are a lot of documents that remain to be used in part because we don’t know how they are relevant.”
Law360 reported that in the most recent trial, plaintiffs offered testimony for the first time from a whistleblower who revealed that Johnson and Johnson was withholding information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She alleged the company instructed her to alter adverse event reports submitted by women with ovarian cancer that would have been submitted to regulators.
Another change Law360 noted that the plaintiffs trial team made during this most recent trial is that they more aggressively went after Johnson and Johnson’s talc supplier Imerys, working it into the themes of the case, according to Meadows. It is the first time a jury found Imerys liable, awarding $2.5 million in damages against the supplier.