Scientific matters relevant to hundreds of talcum powder lawsuits pending in the state of California were addressed earlier this week, when a “Science Day” was convened in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Around 300 talcum powder cases have been centralized in Los Angeles, all of which were filed on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. The judge overseeing the California litigation has scheduled the proceeding’s first bellwether trial for July 3rd. The Plaintiff in that case had motioned the Court for trial preference, as she suffers from terminal cancer and is not expected live for more than six months.
Science Days are common in large, complex litigations of this nature. During Tuesday’s proceeding, each side was given an opportunity to apprise the Court of important medical and scientific issue central to the litigation via non-adversarial, off-the-record presentations. According to CVN.com, attorneys representing talcum powder plaintiffs focused on numerous studies that have suggested a link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. By contrast, the defense highlighted recent decisions by regulatory agencies and health advocacy groups not to classify talc as a human carcinogen.
Johnson & Johnson is named a defendant in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits involving ovarian cancer. In addition to the litigation underway in California, cases have been consolidated in Missouri and New Jersey state court, while federal claims have been centralized in a multidistrict litigation that is now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs involved in these lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers that the regular and repeated use of talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes may increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. They further claim that the company willfully ignored decades of research pointing to such a link in order to protect profits from its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower lines.
California’s trial will be the first convened outside of Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis City, where the country’s largest talcum powder litigation is currently underway. Johnson & Johnson won its first case there earlier this month. However, three talcum powder lawsuits tried last year resulted in verdicts for plaintiffs. Judgments in those cases amounted to $72 million, $70 million and $55 million, with all three juries awarding plaintiffs both compensatory and punitive damages.
Missouri’s next talcum powder trial is scheduled to begin in April, while a sixth case will head to a jury in June.