Woman says J&J has self to blame for $417M talc verdict

talc justice Woman says J&J has self to blame for $417M talc verdictIn August, California resident Eva Echeverria stood up to corporate giant Johnson and Johnson, taking the company to court over allegations that her terminal ovarian cancer was caused by its talc products. The first to go to trial of hundreds of women who’ve filed complaints in California, she won a $417 million verdict, by far the largest of verdicts yet in talc-related trials.

Previously, four separate Missouri juries had awarded verdicts to plaintiffs of $72 million, $55 million, $70 million and $110 million. More than a thousand cases are pending in courts across the country.

On Sept. 15, Johnson and Johnson filed a motion claiming “jury misconduct” and “irregularities in the proceedings” in an attempt to get a retrial, and just a month after the conclusion of her trial Ms. Echeverria finds herself already standing up to J&J again.

“Defendants did not lose because of something the jury did, the court did, or plaintiff’s counsel did,” Ms. Echeverria said, according to Law360. “They lost because the evidence showed what they did.”

One of the things that J&J addressed in its motion was complaints about the size of the verdict, which according to Law360 the company described as “eye-popping” and excessive. The company continued to argue that science was on its side in spite of this jury and the four Missouri juries’ clear opinions otherwise.

According to The Recorder, regarding Johnson and Johnson’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, plaintiff’s lawyer Mark Robinson, of Robinson Calcagnie Inc. in Newport Beach, California, wrote: “This motion asks this court to substitute its views for the findings of the jury and undo the verdict of the jury who was tasked with determining the facts based on the evidence. It is the jury’s role to decide what the facts are.”

Johnson and Johnson also argued that certain evidence and experts should have been excluded from the trial, reports The Recorder. However, during the weeks before the trial there were numerous pretrial rulings deciding such things as the admissibility of evidence and experts and many went in the favor of the defendants. In fact co-defendent Imerys Talc America Inc. won summary judgment.

Complaints that Johnson and Johnson did not get a fair trial are unfounded, said Ms. Echeverria, according to Law360. The company has no one to blame but itself, she said.

Johnson and Johnson included in the motion declarations from two of the three jurors who sided with J&J stating that they were excluded from discussions about amount of damages to be awarded. These two jurors described the deliberations as tense and Johnson and Johnson claimed the verdict was tainted by “passion and prejudice.”

In response, not only do Ms. Echeverria’s attorneys claim that these declarations are legally impermissible evidence, but also provide two of their own juror declarations, which tell the story of the emotions and actions in the deliberation room very differently from the two jurors quoted in Johnson and Johnson’s motion, denying that anyone was excluded in the deliberations and saying that everyone had a chance to weigh in about the amount that would be awarded Ms. Echeverria.

The hearing on Johnson and Johnson’s motions is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Also scheduled for October is the next talc trial, where Johnson and Johnson faces many of the same attorneys who won this California case. This trial is the sixth Missouri talc trial and it originally 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 on issues of jurisdiction. It is scheduled to begin again on Oct. 16.

The Recorder
Righting Injustice