J&J Returns to Court In “Ground Zero” For Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

The first talcum powder trial in Missouri since December 2019 began earlier this month. This is one of at least 25,000 pending lawsuits against J&J.

The lawsuit involves claims made by three female plaintiffs who alleged they developed ovarian cancer from long-term exposure to the drug giant’s cosmetic talc products, Courtroom View Network (CVN) reported. St. Louis, Missouri is the jurisdiction that hosted the first talc trial, held in 2016.

In 2018, a jury in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis found that J&J talc powder contained asbestos and was responsible for the 22 plaintiffs’ ovarian cancer. The 22 women were awarded $4.7 billion.

In June 2020, a district court in the state reduced the damage award to $2.1 billion and two women were removed from the verdict.

Then in November 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to review the verdict, upholding the massive award. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review J&J’s challenge in June of this year.

According to CVN, this latest talc trial is among the first in the nation since the COVID-19 shutdown that focuses on ovarian cancer.

A handful of other talc trials involving mesothelioma-related claims have also recently started or have concluded, including a $26.5 plaintiff verdict in a California court. In August, an appellate court upheld a $29 million plaintiff verdict in a talc ovarian cancer case.

Presiding over the current trial in Missouri is Chief Judge Rex Burlison, who has presided over all of the Missouri talc trials to date, CVN noted.

In May 2020, J&J announced it would discontinue selling talc-based cosmetic products in North America. Facing thousands of unresolved cancer claims, J&J recently hinted that it would shift its talc-related liabilities into a new business venture and avoid future litigation by declaring bankruptcy.

Plaintiff’s attorneys sought a restraining order against the move, but a judge denied the request, stating that the move was premature because J&J has yet to formally go through with the restructuring plan, nor has the company officially declared bankruptcy for the debt-ridden new business.

In April, William Longo, who has appeared in several mesothelioma trials as an expert witness, told a California trial that asbestos contamination of talc is “unavoidable.”

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