A mistrial has been declared in Missouri’s sixth talcum powder ovarian cancer trial, after the U.S. Supreme Court imposed limits on where injured parties may file lawsuits. However, the litigation is far from over, as plaintiffs’ attorneys remain confident they will prove that Missouri is an appropriate venue for talcum powder lawsuits involving Johnson & Johnson.
Missouri’s “joinder rule” did allow multiple plaintiffs living in or outside of the state to join the same lawsuit when their claims arise from the same transaction or occurrence. The Supreme Court’s decision came Monday, in a California case involving the drug Plavix. By an 8-1 margin, the High Court ruled that state courts lack jurisdiction against companies that are not based in the state when plaintiffs’ alleged injuries did not occur there.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, lawyers representing plaintiffs in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St Louis argued on Monday that the current talcum powder trial should be allowed to continue, as Johnson & Johnson used Missouri-based Pharma Tech Industries to label and package its talc products. They also noted that one of three plaintiffs involved in the trial is a Missouri resident. In declaring a mistrial, however, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said it would not be fair to require Johnson & Johnson to defend what are new claims against Pharma Tech.
One legal expert told the Post-Dispatch that Judge Burlison’s decision means Missouri talcum powder plaintiffs must prove they were injured by Johnson & Johnson products actually processed in the state. A plaintiffs’ attorney asserted that Judge Burlison ruling would still allow claimants a chance to show Pharma Tech’s actions contributed to their alleged injuries.
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits nationwide, including more than 1,000 pending in Missouri. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to the long-term use of the company’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson has long been aware of research linking genital talc use to an increased risk for the often-deadly disease. Yet, the healthcare products giant took no action to warn consumers and even engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to ensure regulators did not designate talc a human carcinogen.
So far, only one Missouri jury has returned a verdict for Johnson & Johnson. Four other plaintiffs have been awarded damages ranging from $55 million to $110 million. However, those verdicts are on appeal and it remains to be seen how Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision will impact those cases.