A talcum powder lawsuit that was recently removed from Missouri state court had been remanded, after a federal judge found that its removal was untimely.
The multi-plaintiff lawsuit was initially filed in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court of St. Louis, where hundreds of similar claims have been filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer following long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. The 62 plaintiffs named in the complaint reside in 28 states, including Missouri, New Jersey, and California.
According to HarrisMartin.com, the case was one of 20 talcum powder lawsuits removed from state court following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, which held that out-of-state plaintiffs can’t sue companies in states where a defendant doesn’t have a significant presence unless a plaintiff’s injuries occurred in that state.
Johnson & Johnson motioned to remove the case from Missouri state court on June 29th, asserting that many of the plaintiffs were procedurally misjoined and should be dismissed from the lawsuit. The company also argued that the plaintiffs acted in bad faith by forum-shopping in order to secure a forum they believed would be more favorable to them and more hostile to out-of-state defendants like Johnson & Johnson.
The plaintiffs then filed an emergency motion to remand. Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, granted their motion in an Order dated July 18th.
“Here, plaintiffs surely secured advantageous forums by manipulating the groups of plaintiffs in an attempt to prevent federal jurisdiction. However, this manipulation was legal within the confines of federal statutes and case law at the time and was not done in bad faith,” Judge Limbaugh wrote. “Although Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. may have altered the state of affairs in regards to these mass actions with many out-of-state plaintiffs joining with in-state plaintiffs, it did not create an exception to the strict one year removal statute’s application to actions removed based upon diversity in 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(1). The defendants have presented no evidence of bad faith that would establish the exception to this rule.”
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country. Plaintiffs pursuing these cases claim that Johnson & Johnson has long had knowledge of research suggesting that the regular and repeated use of talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes could contribute to the development of ovarian cancer. They further allege that Johnson & Johnson placed profits over safety by failing to provide consumers with appropriate warnings regarding the risks potentially associated with its Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder products.
The Missouri litigation – the largest in the nation – has already concluded five talcum powder trials. Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in just one of those cases. Plaintiffs in four other talcum powder lawsuits have been awarded compensatory and punitive damages ranging from $55 million to $110 million. However, the status of those verdicts is unclear, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California.