It’s been six months since Johnson & Johnson was hit with a staggering $4.69 billion verdict in a case brought by 22 women who alleged the company’s talcum powder products contained cancer-causing asbestos that contributed to their ovarian cancer diagnosis, but the sting has yet to fade.
Earlier this month, the consumer health care giant urged the Missouri Supreme Court to force St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison to unbundle a similar trial involving 13 women with ovarian cancer, saying it was unfair not to try the cases one plaintiff at a time. The state’s high court agreed to consider the company’s arguments, and paused the trial, which was slated to start Jan. 22.
J&J argued that a fair trial was impossible when the plaintiffs were grouped together. Product liability defense attorneys support the prospect. Plaintiffs’ attorneys representing the 13 plaintiffs, however, naturally disagree.
“The plaintiffs in this litigation are very sick women who deserve their day in court before dying,” Beasley Allen attorney Ted Meadows said in a statement. Meadows is one of the attorneys representing women in the case. “If Johnson & Johnson gets to limit these trials to one at a time, most of these women will not get to see justice.”
Meadows added that Missouri has a history of recognizing the improved efficiency of grouping plaintiffs in one trial for both sides in a mass tort litigation. Furthermore, there have been several single-plaintiff trials in St. Louis involving ovarian cancer claims caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talc products, yet the mass tort is no closer to resolution.