As CMBG3 Law reported in October, the Missouri Court of Appeals (Eastern District) surprised many litigators when it overturned a $72 million verdict that was awarded to plaintiff Jacqueline Fox in a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder ovarian cancer case. As we reported, the case was overturned on personal jurisdiction grounds, as the court found that neither the plaintiff (an Alabama resident) nor Johnson & Johnson had sufficient contacts to Missouri for the case to have proceeded in the state. Although plaintiff’s attorneys asked the Court of Appeals to remand the case to the lower court so that the record could be supplemented with information regarding Johnson & Johnson’s connections to the state of Missouri, which may have cured the jurisdictional concerns, the Court of Appeals denied this request. This week, plaintiffs filed a Motion To Reconsider, asking the Court of Appeals to permit the case to remand back to the lower court for further evidence.
Ms. Fox’s case was the first case to reach a verdict in the talcum powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson. After the verdict in Ms. Fox’s case, Johnson & Johnson took three additional cases to verdict in Missouri that resulted in plaintiff’s verdicts:
• Gloria Ristesund, $55 million, May 2016
• Deborah Giannecchini, $70 million, October 2016
• Louis Stemp, $110 million, May 2017
Each of these verdicts was appealed and it remains to be seen whether the Missouri Court of Appeals will also set aside each of these verdicts. Any such determination would be based on the facts of each individual case, but the Court of Appeals’ ruling will have a significant impact on the Missouri talcum powder docket nonetheless.
In October 2017, CMBG3 Law reported that a California case (Herford) began trial against Johnson & Johnson for alleged asbestos-contamination of talc fibers in talcum powder, which allegedly caused plaintiff’s mesothelioma. Only a few days into trial, a mistrial was declared, as plaintiff impermissibly testified as to her awareness of the ongoing litigation against Johnson & Johnson for ovarian cancer claims regarding the company’s talcum powder product. The Judge ruled that such testimony was impermissible due to its potentially inflammatory effect on the jury.
As new jury was subsequently picked and today marks the twelfth day of the trial, with Johnson & Johnson now presenting its case to the jury. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson called to the stand its expert witness, John Hopkins, who began working for the company in 1976 and has held a consulting role for the company in recent years. Hopkins provided testimony regarding the Val Chisone talc mines in Italy, where Johnson & Johnson sourced its talc until 1967. In three separate studies (1976, 2003, 2017), there were no findings of mesothelioma in any talc miner that worked at the mines. Hopkins also testified that the Vermont mines from which Johnson & Johnson sourced its talc after 1967 were also studied, with results also showing no reported findings of mesothelioma. The Herford case is the first asbestos-contaminated talc case to proceed to trial in California, so those involved in the asbestos and talcum powder litigation are paying close attention to the results.
In the Herford case, plaintiff contends that Johnson & Johnson knew that the talc that it used in its products contained asbestos as early as the start of the 20th century up until the 1970s. Plaintiff further claims that Johnson & Johnson took active steps to conceal this information from the public. Johnson & Johnson denies that it concealed any information from the public and further contends that the studies that plaintiff relies on to suggest that the talc used in Johnson & Johnson’s products contained asbestos were not taken from the same sources from which Johnson & Johnson obtained its talc for the products used by Hereford. Johnson & Johnson will argue to the jury that Hereford’s mesothelioma was caused by 30 sessions of radiation that she underwent in 1998 to treat her breast cancer.
The attorneys at CMBG3 Law LLC have represented clients in talc, products liability, and toxic tort matters for many years. We provide the most current advice by staying informed of legal, scientific and medical developments regarding a wide variety of substances and products, including talc-containing products, used by consumers every day. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact John Gardella (email him or 617-936-4353).