The National Law Review, Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Since evidence surfaced linking the use of talcum powder products to the development of ovarian cancer, hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of talc based products. In December of 2015, over 100 of these cases were consolidated into a Multi-County Litigation on the request of J & J and its codefendants.
Johnson & Johnson Requested MDL for Convenience and Consistency
The bellwether cases in New Jersey has gone far more fortuitously for Johnson & Johnson than those in St. Louis, so the pharmaceutical giant wants to have all statements of fact consolidated to ensure the potential for numerous rulings in its favor. In an MDL, witnesses, studies and statement of facts are considered before a judge to determine which evidence and testimony will be permitted once the cases return to the courts where they originated. This process saves time and resources and allowed for swifter conclusion of cases with similar cases and circumstances.
Johnson & Johnson is banking on the fact that the first two trials went in its favor, but the tide can easily turn in the cases yet to be heard. This is a calculated move for the company that may quickly work in the favor of plaintiffs if the evidence compels future rulings in their favor.
Failure to Warn at Heart of Complaints
Despite numerous pleas from medical experts, doctors and victims, Johnson & Johnson not only continues to deny the link between talc products and ovarian cancer, but refuses to place warnings on their products to properly inform consumers. So long as this practice continues, millions of women will remain uneducated on the potential for talc to migrate to the ovaries and fallopian tubes where it can cause tumors and other medical complications.
Shower-to-Shower products are marketed specifically for use on the genitals, which plaintiffs argue is recklessly negligence considering the conclusions of case studies conducted with Johnson & Johnson funding that expressed concerns over a possible link between prolonged use and ovarian cancer. Placing a warning on the products would have exonerated Johnson & Johnson from responsibility by making consumers assume the risk, but such warnings are likely to impact the sales of talc based products.
Johnson & Johnson’s motivations are clearly based in greed and a disregard for public safety, which is why hundreds of women continue to come forward with claims in an effort to hold the company accountable for its misdeeds. The good news is that while the first cases went in Johnson & Johnson’s favor, it has suffered three consecutive defeats in St. Louis and the momentum appears to be shifting.
Cases in the Near Future Likely to Influence J & J’s Willingness to Settle
The primary purpose of a bellwether case is to try to determine how future juries will respond to the evidence and testimony that will be repeated due to the precedents established in the MCL. Regardless of how these cases fare, each plaintiff still has the right to decide whether to proceed with her case. If several cases swing in favor of plaintiffs, Johnson & Johnson will attempt to offer a class action settlement in order to mitigate the damage.
Around 156 women are involved in current litigation in New Jersey with the majority of the cases originating in Atlantic County. 16 of the consolidated cases originated in Bergen County. Judges Julio Mendez and Nelson Johnson will preside over the MCL, which is taking place in Atlantic County.