Next week the second talc trial of 2017 is scheduled to begin in Missouri. Sixty-one-year-old plaintiff Lois Slemp alleges that her ovarian cancer is caused by four decades of using Johnson and Johnson’s talc products for feminine hygiene and she claims that J&J and its talc supplier Imerys Talc America should have warned her of the products’ cancer risk.
“Opening statements are set to begin on April 10 before Judge Rex Burlison, the same judge who presided over the four previous talcum powder trials in St. Louis. Plaintiffs won three of those cases, saddling J&J with nearly $200 million in damages and spawning thousands of additional lawsuits throughout the country…” according to courtroom news service CVN.
Those thousands of women suing Johnson and Johnson and Imerys are alleging that the companies withheld information that linked Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products with ovarian cancer. There is consolidated federal litigation in New Jersey and consolidated state litigation in New Jersey and California in addition to the litigation in Missouri.
Thus far in Missouri, the plaintiffs have won one of the two defense picks that have made it to court and won all of their own picks, with juries finding that the talcum powder contributed to the development of the plaintiffs’ ovarian cancer and awarding massive verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million to women with ovarian cancer and their families.
Normally the plaintiffs and defendants take turns choosing from the thousands of pending cases which will be the next bellwether, getting the chance to find a case that may be favorable to their side. However because of her declining health, Ms. Slemp’s trial was expedited, making for two defense picks in a row.
Jim Onder, a St. Louis attorney on the plaintiff’s legal team, spoke to Missouri Lawyers Weekly about Ms. Slemp’s unique set of facts that this St. Louis jury will have to consider. In spite of the fact that it is a defense pick, Onder said, “Generally speaking, our team is optimistic about that case, given that there was asbestos found in the ovaries and the fact that we know Johnson & Johnson has not been able to eliminate asbestos from its talcum powder.”
CVN reports that next week’s trial will be closely watched; the news site will be hosting a live webcast. It will also be watching the development of other talc related litigation across the country. In June, a California judge will hold a five-day hearing to determine the admissibility of expert witnesses set to testify in the July trial, the first bellwether trial in the consolidated talc docket in that state. Also in July, a trial is scheduled in Washington D.C. Superior Court, and other Missouri trials are slated for later in the year.