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Johnson & Johnson Loses Bid to Delay Talcum Powder Cancer Trials

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St. Louis, MIFacing thousands of lawsuits alleging its talcum powder is linked to an increased risk of cancer, Johnson & Johnson filed a bid to delay the trials, arguing the talcum powder cancer lawsuits were filed out of jurisdiction. In early January, however, the Missouri Court of Appeals rejected Johnson & Johnson's motion, allowing the lawsuits to move forward in the jurisdiction in which they were filed.

According to reports, there are 1,350 plaintiffs who have lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson in Missouri courts, but the pharmaceutical company argued that most of them are not Missouri residents. A judge disagreed that where the plaintiffs live is important, however, and is allowing the next trial—which involves around 60 plaintiffs—to begin on February 6, 2017. Five more trials will follow that one.

Lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging the company's talcum powder is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Several lawsuits have already resulted in multimillion-dollar awards to plaintiffs, including $72 million to family of Jacqueline Fox, and $55 million to Gloria Ristesund. Not all lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have been successful, though. Two lawsuits in New Jersey were dismissed with the judge finding experts for the plaintiffs did not prove a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits in Missouri courts, but there are also 900 plaintiffs with lawsuits filed in California state court, and a multidistrict litigation has been set up consolidating federal lawsuits in New Jersey federal court. As of January 17, 2017, there were 99 federal lawsuits consolidated for pretrial proceedings in MDL 2738. That's up from 60 consolidated lawsuits as of November 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, in the California litigation, a judge will not yet set a trial date for a woman who requested trial preference, giving her an earlier trial date because she may only have months to live. The woman, Eva Echeverria, alleges she used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for years and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. According to her attorney, she may have only six months to live. Granting her trial preference would make Echeverria the first of 300 plaintiffs in a coordinated proceeding to have her claims heard.

Judge Maren Nelson refused to set a trial date, stating she needed more information to determine if trial preference was feasible. Both sides have been ordered to answer the judge's questions regarding the trial date before the Judge Nelson sets a start date. The judge also told the plaintiffs and defendants that they would need to develop a procedure to handle the declining health of plaintiffs.

The coordinated proceeding is Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, number JCCP4872, in Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

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