Johnson & Johnson is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn a multibillion-dollar lower court ruling that affirmed that asbestos and carcinogens in its talc products caused cancer in 22 women — the latest in a string of appeals by the company.
The pharmaceutical giant claims that an earlier verdict incorrectly awarded the same damages to each of the 22 plaintiffs, and the jury should’ve instead considered every woman’s situation separately, as Law360 reported. The company further maintains that the 22 women’s legal claims are backed by insufficient evidence, and the women were “essentially ignoring the independent scientific consensus that talc use has not been shown to cause ovarian cancer.”
Earlier findings, however, determined that the scientific evidence on talc was credible. Freda L. Wolfson, chief district judge of the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, found that the conclusion that talc use can cause ovarian cancer was based on independent scientific research conducted using accepted practices, and thus sufficiently credible for a jury trial.
The appeal, the latest legal gambit by Johnson & Johnson to avoid paying billions in talc damages, follows a pair of legal setbacks. A federal judge in July bumped 11 claims against the company back down to state court, which is historically less friendly to defendants. In June, a Missouri appeals court cut an earlier $4.69 verdict against Johnson & Johnson in half, but affirmed that the company knew “the talc in their products caused ovarian cancer.”
In its appeals, Johnson & Johnson has tried to cast doubt on the women’s cancer claims by suggesting their talcum powder samples were dubiously acquired. The plaintiffs are “purporting to find traces of asbestos in pre-opened, second-hand containers of talc, which were mostly purchased by plaintiffs’ lawyers from strangers on eBay,” wrote Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys.
Undermining the company’s claim, the FDA in March 2020 found asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products following a yearlong investigation into potential asbestos contamination.
If the Missouri Supreme Court fails to take up Johnson & Johnson’s appeal, the company may finally have to pay $2.11 billion to the 22 women.
By James Parker
James Parker is a news writer and fact-checker from Coral Springs, Florida. He majored in Communication and Media Studies at Stetson University, where he spent much of his time examining the role of optics in various fields. When not covering the latest medical or legal development, James works on personal writing projects and board game design.