The talc trial against defendants Johnson and Johnson and Imerys Talc America, which began on June 5 in St. Louis, has been declared a mistrial after Monday’s Supreme Court decision about jurisdiction.
This sixth trial before St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison was to be the first multi-plaintiff trial. One of the three plaintiffs bringing the suit, Michael Blaes of Webster Groves, Missouri, is the first Missouri resident to be represented in a claim to go to trial. He is the husband of Shawn Blaes, who died of ovarian cancer in 2011 at age 50 after decades of using Johnson and Johnson’s talcum-based products for feminine hygiene. Of the more than 1,000 claims filed in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court many are from out-of-state residents.
The mistrial is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision overruling the California Supreme Court’s previous decision to allow hundreds of out-of-state plaintiffs to sue Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York, in California. These plaintiffs allege BMS’ blood-thinning medication Plavix increased their risk of stroke, heart attack and internal bleeding.
According to Law360, the California Supreme Court said that because of the company’s marketing, distribution and other activities in the state the court had specific personal jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that there needed to be a connection between the specific claims and California and none was proven in the Plavix cases.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that plaintiffs’ attorneys in the talc cases may try to argue jurisdiction for some of the thousands of suits filed in Missouri if they can prove a connection to Pharma Tech Industries in Franklin County, which Johnson and Johnson and Imerys use to package and label talc products.
However, Beasley Allen lawyer Ted Meadows who has been involved in all of the Missouri talc trials, points out that, “It’s not the venue that makes it difficult for Johnson & Johnson and Imerys to win these trials, it’s the facts.”
He said in a recent press release, “After reviewing this morning’s Supreme Court ruling, and based on evidence and statements now in the record, we believe this litigation can go forward in Missouri courts. We plan to conduct additional discovery and depositions to confirm this position, and look forward to that opportunity. Our trial team remains confident that the evidence and the science remains on the side of our clients. We’re prepared to file these cases in courts across the nation should that be necessary, and believe that jurors will continue to carefully consider the clear link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.”
This is one of two similar decisions in just three weeks, with the Supreme Court siding with businesses in jurisdictional issues.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion wrote “that there is nothing unfair about subjecting a ‘massive’ corporation to face suits in a state court for a nationwide pattern of conduct that allegedly injures both residents of that state and non-residents,” according to Law360.
Of the majority’s decision she said, “It will make it impossible to bring a nationwide mass action in state court against defendants who are ‘at home’ in different states. And it will result in piecemeal litigation and the bifurcation of claims.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch