Ridgeland, MONext year and the year after, St. Louis, Missouri will be the venue for a massive showdown in the courts between Johnson & Johnson and the hundreds of women who have filed lawsuits alleging there is a direct relationship between their ovarian cancer and the use of talcum powder-based products manufactured and sold by Johnson and Johnson.
The Missouri Supreme Court recently upheld a $110 million verdict awarded to a woman from Virginia after J&J argued that verdict should be overturned because the trial was from out of state. Missouri is one of two states where J&J has a Baby Powder manufacturing plant and the court ruled St. Louis was a proper venue.
“That is good news for my clients and we can continue looking forward and litigating cases in St. Louis for these women that are dying on a daily basis,” says R. Allen Smith from the R. Allen Smith law firm based in Ridgeland, Missouri.
“The judge in St. Louis has set trials for 2018 and 2019,” says Smith. “He has told all parties that those trial groups will not be broken out and tried individually. The entire trials will be tried together.
“We are talking about trying 25, 50, 75 plaintiffs in one trial setting. Those scheduling orders have been entered and we are working towards trial dates in June and September of next year. There will be more in 2018,” adds Smith.
Smith is, arguably, ground zero in the story of Johnson & Johnson and the connection between the use of talc-based Baby Powder and currently represents hundreds of plaintiffs.
He filed the first case on December 7, 2007 on behalf of a woman from South Dakota with ovarian cancer. Although the jury found J&J liable they did not award her any financial compensation.
Since then, the number of lawsuits filed against J&J by women alleging negligence and failure to warn has exploded. J&J has already paid some $700 million in compensation following jury trials in the US. It is estimated there are some 5,000 lawsuits pending in various jurisdictions in the US.
The trials have focused attention on the use of talc-based products in general. The FDA is currently funding further research into the use of talc-based products and the risk of ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests the studies linking ovarian cancer to talc-based products have had mixed results.
Testimony at the trials pitted J&J scientific experts against scientific experts for the plaintiffs.
Some of those same experts will likely be called to give their expert opinions in the forthcoming trials. Smith argues that plaintiff experts are scientists who have been researching and publishing studies that show a link between talc and genital cancers in scientific peer-reviewed journals for decades.
“Before I even got out of law school these scientists were showing the association between talc and genital cancers,” says Smith.
He is sharply critical of the scientific testimony brought into the courtroom by J&J.
“Sure have they gotten experts to come say at trial that there is some debate about whether or not talc causes ovarian cancer --- sure they have,” says Smith. “Have any of them published in the peer reviewed literature prior to the start of litigation and prior getting involved talc litigation --- absolutely not!”
Johnson & Johnson has steadfastly maintained its talc-based products are safe to use and there is no scientific evidence to connect talc to genital cancers. Although some generic versions of talcum powder bath products have included warnings on their packaging Johnson & Johnson has declined to do the same.
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