In October federal lawsuits that had been filed across the country alleging injuries related to talc were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court under Judge Freda L. Wolfson. New Jersey was chosen because it is the headquarters of the primary defendant, Johnson and Johnson, and Judge Wolfson was chosen because she is already handling the most advanced case in the MDL, said Law360. In only a few months, the MDL has grown from the 11 lawsuits reported by the New Jersey Law Journal the first week of October to more than 70 plaintiffs in the MDL today.
The lawsuits allege that the defendants Johnson and Johnson are liable for personal injuries or wrongful death that resulted from ovarian or uterine cancer in women who used the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene. These talc products include Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.
According to the New Jersey Law Journal, plaintiffs claim that the manufacturers of these products, aware of decades of research linking talc to cancer, refused to warn consumers of any risk, but rather marketed the products to women “with ads encouraging them to use such products to mask odors.” Other defendants in the lawsuits include Sanofi US, Imerys Talc, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Chattem.
Three talc cases have already gone to trial this year in Missouri district court. In the most recent case, both Johnson and Johnson and Imerys Talc were found liable for plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini’s ovarian cancer and the suffering she experienced as a result of her cancer treatment. The jury awarded $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, $65 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson, and $2.5 million in punitive damages against Imerys. Juries in both of the other two cases that went to trial found Johnson and Johnson guilty. In May, the company was hit with a $55 million verdict and in February, a $72 million verdict.
Leadership of the MDL has just been chosen and Beasley Allen attorney Leigh O’Dell has been selected to serve as Co-Lead Counsel along with Michelle Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel, a firm based in Washington, D.C. Beasley Allen attorneys were a part of the trial team for all three of the Missouri talc trials.
“I feel very honored to serve on behalf of the thousands of women who are suffering and many dying of ovarian cancer as a result of their long-term use of talcum powder,” O’Dell said in a press release. “Despite numerous credible scientific studies showing an increased risk of ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson has never warned users of their Baby Powder or other talcum-powder based products. Internal documents make clear that J&J and its principal supplier of talc have been aware of the risks of ovarian cancer for many years. Rather than act responsibly and warn consumers, Johnson & Johnson suppressed safety information and actively misled women about the dangers of genital talc use. The company’s conduct is reprehensible, and we look forward to continuing to pursue justice on behalf of these deserving women and their families.”