Four talc-based lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson (J&J) have been transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPMDL) from federal courts in Pennsylvania and Missouri to defense-friendly courts in New Jersey. JPMDL transferred the cases despite objections from plaintiffs.
New Jersey Judge
Last year, J&J successfully convinced a judge in New Jersey to drop a suit filed by two women who claimed the company sold talcum-powder products with the knowledge that they were linked to ovarian cancer. The Atlantic City Judge, Nelson Johnson, concluded during last year’s case that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence to show a causal link between talcum-powder and ovarian cancer. J&J capitalized on this ruling by using it to shut down 3,100 lawsuits filed on similar grounds.
During the trials in New Jersey, J&J argued that the experts’ testimony regarding the relationship between ovarian cancer and talcum power had “multiple deficiencies” and asserted that the premises on which the plaintiffs’ claims rested were not sound.
Responding to Judge Johnson’s ruling, a J&J spokeswoman said, “The court’s decision appropriately reflects the science and facts at issue in this litigation.” She continued, “Science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.”
Attempt to Vacate Transfer
The plaintiffs utilized Panel Rule 7.1 in an attempt to block the JPMDL’s decision to transfer actions from Missouri and Pennsylvania to MDL No. 2738 in New Jersey. However, the defendants (Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., and Imerys Talc America, Inc.) counteracted the plaintiffs’ attempt.
Plaintiffs argued on jurisdictional grounds that they should not be transferred to state courts. However, the panel responded, “The JPMDL has held that jurisdictional issues generally do not present an impediment to transfer, as plaintiffs can present these arguments to the transferee judge.”
Plaintiffs in the Moore case argued that the MDL to which they were being transferred had cases with different defendants. They contended that this was grounds for vacating the transfer. Once again, the panel countered, “Transfer under Section 1407 does not need a complete identity of factual issues or parties as a prerequisite to transfer when the actions arise from a common factual core.” The judges continued, “We find that these actions involve common questions of fact with the actions transferred to MDL No. 2738, and that transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.”
Three cases were transferred from Missouri:
- Ghormley, et al. v Johnson & Johnson, et al., .
- Krueger, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., et al.
- Hensley, et al. v Johnson & Johnson, et al.
And one was transferred from Pennsylvania:
- Moore, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al.
Plaintiffs Deserve Fair Compensation
Plaintiffs were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after years of applying J&J’s talc-based products to their perineum. In each case, they have argued that the company failed to provide an adequate warning regarding the product’s links to cancer.
This past May, a 62-year old ovarian cancer patient received $110 million in compensation marking the fourth “mega-verdict” in J&J lawsuits conducted in St. Louis. The other three verdicts were given last year, with $72 million, $70 million and $55 million given as compensation to victims (or their families). Recent debates surrounding mass tort cases could affect where future lawsuits against J&J take place.
Important Supreme Court Decision
In the coming weeks, the US Supreme Court will make a decision regarding jurisdiction in civil cases. Their decision could be massively important for those seeking plaintiff-friendly courts in other states.