We previously reported that the estate of talc plaintiff Jacqueline Fox asked a Missouri court of appeals to reconsider its decision to overrule the $72 million verdict against Johnson and Johnson which was awarded last February. The appeals’ court’s decision was based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bristol Myers Squibb ruling from this June, which changed the standards for establishing personal jurisdiction for plaintiffs filing out of their home states. The estate of Alabama resident Fox contested that they should be allowed to re-argue for jurisdiction under the new law, as they have new evidence establishing personal jurisdiction in Missouri.
According to Beasley Allen, an Alabama law firm that represented plaintiffs in all of the Missouri trials, the new post-trial evidence has just been ruled sufficient for establishing personal jurisdiction by Judge Rex M. Burlison of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, when he upheld a later May 2017 verdict of $110 million on behalf of plaintiff Lois Slemp in a 12-page opinion issued Nov. 29.
A Virginia resident, Ms. Slemp has been able to establish proper jurisdiction based on new evidence involving Union, Missouri-based Pharma Tech, which is directly involved in the processing, labeling, packaging and distribution of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
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.”
We previously reported that allegations drawn from letters, forms, emails, monthly checks and sales documents included information 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.
“If you look at the record in each trial to date, the defendants have been very careful to hide the presence and role of Pharma Tech,” said Allen Smith of the Smith Law Firm of Ridgeland, Mississippi, and co-lead counsel for Ms. Slemp. “Now that jurisdiction has been confirmed by the court, future trials will be able to more clearly show the steps J&J has taken to deceive the public and medical community of the dangers of talcum powder use for feminine hygiene.”
“This ruling confirms that even the limited evidence we’ve uncovered regarding PharmaTech is sufficient to meet the high standard set by the Supreme Court, and should allow us to affirm the earlier verdicts and move forward with additional trials in Missouri,” said Ted Meadows, co-lead counsel for Ms. Slemp and a principal at the Beasley Allen Law Firm.
Jacqueline Fox was the first of four Missouri jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs who alleged that prolonged genital use of Johnson and Johnson’s talc-containing products led to the development of their ovarian cancer. The women were not warned of this risk by the company, even though for decades it was aware of the studies linking its products to ovarian cancer. The juries awarded compensatory and large punitive damages damages totalling $70 million, $72 million, $55 million and $110 million against J&J and co-defendant, talc-supplier Imerys Talc America.
It remains to be seen if this ruling regarding Ms. Slemp’s case will affect the appeal of Ms. Fox’s case.