Johnson & Johnson Talc Appeal Unhindered by COVID-19 Shutdown

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On March 26, a Missouri appellate court set an April 24 date for Johnson & Johnson’s $4.69 billion talc appeal. The Johnson & Johnson talc appeal scheduled defies the Missouri Supreme Court’s cancellation of all April arguments to reduce COVID-19 exposure.

The Johnson & Johnson talc appeal announcement was released in a brief order the established some ground rules for the 10 a.m. event. Only two lawyers for each side will be allowed in the courtroom. Arguments will be live-streamed on the court’s Facebook page and a recorded version will be uploaded on YouTube. Each side will have 30 minutes to present their principal argument and Johnson & Johnson will receive six additional minutes for rebuttal.

The Johnson & Johnson talc appeal will center on the decision to uphold or overturn the $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and J&J Consumer, a subsidiary. In a unanimous decision, the jury had the defendants liable for strict liability and negligence resulting in ovarian cancer for more than 20 women.

In response to the Missouri court’s decision to pursue the Johnson & Johnson talc appeal, neither side expressed any discomfort.

Johnson & Johnson released a statement in which they said they were “grateful to the court for their time and look forward to a full appellate review.” Johnson & Johnson has made it clear it believes the original trial “was fraught with legal and evidentiary error” that focused too heavily on the pain and damages of the plaintiffs.

On the plaintiff’s side, attorney Mark Lanier told Law360 in an email, “The court has made a measured and responsible decision weighing the seriousness of [COVID]-19 with the truth that several plaintiffs have already died post-trial, and those still alive are entitled to a just review of their cases.”

While the decision to hold appellate arguments defies public health recommendations, the appeal of the largest talc trial verdict commands attention from plaintiffs in multi-district litigation whose cases remain in limbo.

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 bringing the cutting edge of medical research to his peers’ attention. When he’s not writing, he enjoys rewatching “Almost Famous” or curling up with a good book.

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