The National Law Journal reveals details from a newly available transcript from St. Louis Civil Court. Last month another closely watched talc trial against Johnson and Johnson was underway, following four attention-grabbing plaintiff wins totaling more than $300 million and one defense win in the previous year and a half.
The sixth Missouri talc trial started on June 5, but on June 19 was declared a mistrial when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court. The significant decision about jurisdiction overruled the California Supreme Court’s previous decision to allow hundreds of out-of-state plaintiffs to sue Bristol-Myers Squibb over blood thinner Plavix in California. The company is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. The court found that there wasn’t enough connection between their claims and California in spite of California distributor, McKesson Corp.
Upon the Supreme Court’s decision, defense attorneys in the talc litigation immediately filed a motion for mistrial. Two of the three plaintiffs in the Missouri talc case, which was the first multiplaintiff case to go before a jury, were not from Missouri. Of the more than 1,000 claims filed in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court many are from out-of-state residents and none of the plaintiffs in the previously completed trials were Missouri residents. Johnson and Johnson and co-defendant Imerys Talc America plan to use Bristol-Myers Squibb in their appeals of those verdicts.
However, Bristol-Myers Squibb doesn’t necessarily spell the huge shift in Missouri litigation it at first appears. Plaintiffs attorneys had unexpected evidence that might establish the Missouri connection that is needed for jurisdiction.
According to the National Law Journal, new to both defense attorneys, who cried “unfair,” and 22nd Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison, attorneys introduced Pharma Tech Industries, which they alleged was “doing the packaging and labeling, distributing, of talc-based body powders right here in Union, Missouri.” Allegations that were drawn from letters, forms, emails, monthly checks and sales documents included that Pharma Tech bought raw talc from defendant Imerys that had a cancer warning, but that the warning was removed per Johnson and Johnson’s direction during the manufacturing and labeling process.
Of Pharma Tech, plaintiffs attorney W. Wylie Blair of Onder, Shelton, O’Leary & Peterson in St. Louis said, “They’re the ones who are ultimately the end all and be all in terms of whether the labeling contains a warning.”
Although Judge Burlison granted the mistrial, he set the case to be retried on October 16. During the next few months plaintiffs attorneys will have time for discovery of new evidence about Pharma Tech’s relevance to development of these three women’s ovarian cancer.
“Pharma Tech has come up in plaintiffs’ motions this month to remand 20 cases back to Missouri. Johnson & Johnson removed them to federal court under Bristol-Myers just before the scheduled depositions and subpoenas on the Pharma Tech evidence. Plaintiffs’ attorneys also want the Missouri Court of Appeals to let them add the Pharma Tech evidence to a case on appeal,” reported the National Law Journal.
The National Law Journal