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Talcum Powder Judgements for Plaintiffs Reversed, Casting Similar Cases into Doubt


. By Jane Mundy

Courts have reversed two talcum powder judgements against Johnson & Johnson. The talcum powder lawsuits involve a woman who was awarded $417 million in August and another case was awarded $72. Both women have died from ovarian cancer.

Eva Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, after using Johnson’s Baby Powder for more than 40 years. Jackie Fox, who died in 2015, had been using the talc for about 25 years.

The Associated Press (October 17, 2017) reported that a Missouri appeals court was not the proper jurisdiction to hear the Fox lawsuit. A jury in the St. Louis Circuit Court was the first to award a plaintiff against Johnson & Johnson. According to AP, the decision was based on a Supreme Court ruling (in June a case involved suits against Bristol-Myers Squibb’s medication Plavix) that placed limits on where injury lawsuits could be filed, and that state courts cannot hear claims against companies not based in the state where alleged injuries occurred.

Over 1,000 similar talcum powder lawsuits have been filed in St. Louis. Regarding those cases filed in the state of Missouri by non-resident plaintiffs, Carole Goodrich, a spokeswoman for J&J, told AP that, “We consistently argued that there was no jurisdiction and we expect the existing verdicts that we are appealing to be reversed.”

Jim Onder, an attorney representing many plaintiffs, argued that Missouri is a proper jurisdiction because the pharma giant packages and labels some of its products in Missouri. He told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Supreme Court sent Bristol’s Plavix case back to California state court and he is confident the Missouri Supreme Court will do the same.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted J&J a new trial in the Echeverria lawsuit, citing errors and jury misconduct in the August trial. She also ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence proving that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice, and the award for damages was excessive. Attorney Mark Robinson Jr. said the decision will be appealed. “We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product,” he said, maintaining that documents show Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks of talc and ovarian cancer for three decades.

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