The first talc trial of the new year starts in just over a week. Expected to begin Feb. 6 in St. Louis, the case is brought by dozens of plaintiffs who hope that the court will hold Johnson and Johnson and its talc containing products responsible for their ovarian cancer, like Missouri courts did for three women last year.
“Talc litigation is one of the biggest product-liability stories of the last year, as juries have repeatedly shown a willingness to hand out verdicts in the tens of millions of dollars,” reported Law360.
Johnson and Johnson has been attempting to delay this trial as well as the ones that are scheduled to follow in April, June and July. On Jan. 24, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected the company’s request to deny jurisdiction of the 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis to hear the cases. The company’s argument was that most of 1,350 pending plaintiffs are not Missouri residents.
“Anyone has the constitutional right to bring a case in any jurisdiction, ” Ted Meadows, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement earlier this month. “We’ve chosen St. Louis to file several talc-related claims because it’s a central location that makes sense for these women, many of whom are very ill and deserve to have their claims heard fairly, quickly and efficiently.”
On Jan 3. the Missouri Court of Appeals had already denied a similar motion to delay on the same grounds, and now the Supreme Court’s agreement with that decision means that the trial will start in February as scheduled.
“The Missouri Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutional rights of these women and families to file these claims in a central location,” Meadows said in a statement Thursday. “J&J has known about the risk and the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer for a long time. … And we can show and have shown that J&J has been trying to doctor that evidence for many years.”
Meadows’ firm Beasley Allen was involved in the three talc suits that went to trial last year ending in huge verdicts, specifically $177 million of dollars in punitive damages against Johnson and Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys Talc America. According to the firm, during the trials researchers and scientists testified on the numerous studies that have shown the link between genital talc use and increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The jurors were shown internal company documents, testimony and evidence from Johnson and Johnson that showed the company’s knowledge of the risk and that rather than warn consumers it attempted to suppress the research. Every jury confronted with the evidence decisively found in favor of the plaintiff.
Besides the plaintiffs in Missouri, according to Law360 around 900 women have filed suit in California state court, and in October all federal suits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey. They don’t report any trial dates set for these litigations yet.