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J&J Granted Mistrial in Latest Talc Case in MO.

Jacqueline Fox, National Law Journal

Mesh News Desk, June 19, 2017 ~ Johnson & Johnson has been granted a mistrial in its latest multi-plaintiff talcum powder/ ovarian cancer trial.

Monday morning, June 19th, in a St. Louis courtroom, defendant Johnson & Johnson requested and was granted a mistrial in its latest talcum powder trial.

The wrongful death case for three plaintiffs was entering its seventh day in the 22nd Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis before Judge Rex M. Burlison.  All three plaintiffs had allegedly died of ovarian cancer from their use of J&J’s talcum powder products in their genital area.

The prior cases in this venue have been single plaintiff.

The mistrial was declared after a U.S. Supreme court decision on a case being heard across the country.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  here  reports that in the 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that allowed out of state plaintiffs suing Bristol-Myers Squibb over its Plavix to conduct that case in California.  The justices ruled state courts cannot hear claims where the alleged injury did not occur or where the company defendant is not based.

The California Supreme Court had allowed the proceedings to continue in California because Bristol had sold more than 180 million Plavix pills in that state which generated more than $900 million in sales, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Plavix is being litigated because it allegedly causes a substantial risk of heart attack and stroke and bleed outs. In the litigation, 700 plaintiffs, (which includes 86 Californians) allege product liability under California state law.

Interesting in the Missouri case, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison declared the mistrial even though one of the plaintiffs is a St. Louis area man, who was suing on behalf of his late wife.

The newspaper reports the high court ruling could wipe out six previous verdicts from trials held in St. Louis, which resulted in more than $300 million in verdicts for plaintiffs.

After losing four of five trials in this St. Louis court over its talcum powder products, J&J had sought a change of venue.

In the case of Jacqueline Fox and Gloria Ristesund, who were awarded $72 million and $55 million respectively, J&J claimed they were not residents of Missouri and had not used any of the products in Missouri.   They were from Alabama and South Dakota.  J&J argued that a Missouri court lacked personal jurisdiction for the non-resident plaintiffs who claimed manufacturing defect and design defect..

The counter argument is that if Johnson & Johnson didn’t want to be held liable for injuries in Missouri, it should never have sold its products in Missouri.

St. Louis University Law Journal has more on the legal aspects  here.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only dissenting vote.

Justice Sotomayor wrote, “There is nothing unfair about subjecting a massive corporation to suit in a state for a nationwide course of conduct that injures both forum residents and nonresidents alike.”

 

BACKGROUND

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, June 5, 2017 ~ The first trial involving multiple plaintiffs over J&J’s talcum powder and its link to ovarian cancer begins today in a St. Louis courtroom.  

J&J is back in a St. Louis courtroom today, reports DrugWatch, facing three plaintiffs defending itself against charges that long-term use of its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.

This is the first multi-plaintiff trial in St. Louis over the risks of using talcum powder and will be covered by Courtroom View Network.

The three plaintiffs are Michael Blaes (on behalf of his wife), Savanna Crews and Darlene Evans, all of whom died from ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs contend that long term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, both baby powder and/ or Shower to Shower caused their ovarian cancer.

A pre-trial conference will be held Monday, June 5,  and depending on the outcome, jury selection will begin Tuesday.

This same courthouse has been the venue for five unsuccessful talcum powder trials for Johnson & Johnson.

  • May 2017- Jury award of $110 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Lois Slemp, 62 of Virginia used baby powder and Shower to Shower for more than 40 years. Her ovarian cancer, diagnosed in 2012, has spread. See MND coverage here.

  • March 2017 – Jury ruled in favor of J&J. Plaintiff Nora Daniels, 55, was awarded nothing. MND coverage here. 

  • October 2016 – Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay nearly $70 million to Deborah Giannecchini, 63, co-defendant ordered to pay $2.5 million. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. One jurors told Bloomberg Newsabout J&J, “It seems like they didn’t care.”  An appeal is planned.  See MND coverage here. 

  • May 2016 – J&J ordered to pay $55 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Gloria Ristesund. She used J&J powder for feminine hygiene for about 40 years. J&J should have put a warning on this product, said one juror.

  • February 2016 – Jackie Fox, 62, was awarded $72 million. She died of ovarian cancer in 2015. MND story here. 

J&J insists the research on the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder is inconclusive. There are more than 1,000 similar lawsuits filed around the country.

Beasley Allen law firm had headed the litigation on behalf of plaintiffs.

Courtroom View Network will cover the trial.

The pending Missouri trial is captioned Swann, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., No. 1422-CC09326-01, in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis.

 

One Comment

  1. Still Standing says:

    Jane, I have been reading a lot about this decision. It was a transformational ruling and perhaps a serious blow to mesh litigation, especially out of state litigants filed in the Philadelphia. There are about 100 out of state litigants. These could be halted and put lawsuits won there at risk of being thrown out. This seems to seriously curtail plaintiffs from different states filing in plaintiff friendly courts. It doesn’t seem to impact cases in the federal MDL. But it could be a good thing if that happened as cases would be remanded back to the state court the plaintiff resides in. The ramifications of this decision are deep. Thanks for publishing the story.

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