In the past two months, there have been three significant developments in the talc powder litigation pending in state and federal court. First, on September 2, 2016, a New Jersey judge dismissed 200 cases pending against Johnson & Johnson in state court. The judge found that the plaintiff's experts did not reliably establish the connection between the perineal use of talc powder and ovarian cancer. You can read the judges decision here. Lawyers on behalf of the plaintiffs are appealing this decision.
The following month, on October 4, 2016, the Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation issued a decision consolidating all federal cases pending against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, Inc. This decision creates what is commonly known as in MDL, or multidistrict litigation. A multidistrict litigation is a mechanism to consolidate similar lawsuits pending in federal court around the country into one centralized federal court. In this case, the panel chose the District of New Jersey and assigned the case to Judge Wolfson, who is presently presiding over the most advanced case pending against Johnson & Johnson in federal court. The consolidation of cases allows plaintiffs attorneys from across the country to pool their resources, it voids duplicative discovery in multiple jurisdictions and minimizes inconsistent judicial rulings.
Finally, on October 27, 2016, a St. Louis Missouri jury returned a verdict excess of $70 million. This was the third case to go to trial against Johnson & Johnson. The first two cases went to trial in early 2016 and resulted in verdicts of $50 million and $70 million. In all three cases, the jury was convinced that Johnson & Johnson was aware that the perennial use of its talc powder carried an increased risk of causing ovarian cancer, yet it did not warn consumers of this danger. Some of the scientific research and documents produced in the litigation establish that Johnson & Johnson was aware of this risk as early as the 1970s.
These developments clearly indicate that this litigation is picking up steam quickly. They also indicated, however, that the ultimate outcome of the litigation is far from clear. Johnson & Johnson will surely challenge the plaintiffs' expert testimony in the MDL and will ask Judge Wolfson to dismiss all cases pending in federal court on the same grounds that the New Jersey state court cases were dismissed.