The federal multidistrict litigation established for thousands of talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits is moving closer to the commencement of bellwether trials.
According to a Joint Status Report filed in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, on May 5th, plaintiffs’ attorneys have proposed allowing case-specific discovery to proceed on a group of representative cases in preparation for those trials. However, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson asked the Court to set trial dates as soon as possible, and to only permit limited additional discovery.
“The Defendants disagree that extensive, if any further discovery is needed before trials may begin in the MDL given the massive amount of discovery which has been completed across all jurisdictions, primarily by the same lawyers as in the MDL,” the report states. “To the extent plaintiffs believe there is anything further that they specifically need, they should provide that promptly to the Defendants and if they parties cannot agree they will seek the assistance of Special Master Hon. Joel Pisano.”
There are currently more than 16,400 talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits pending in the federal litigation underway in the District of New Jersey. Hundreds of additional claims have also been filed in various state courts, including California (607), Delaware (9), Missouri (14 involving 608 plaintiffs), New Jersey (600), Florida (37), Georgia (34), Illinois (43), Pennsylvania (21), Louisiana (32), and one each in Arizona, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
All of these talcum powder lawsuits similarly allege that the long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for feminine hygiene purposes can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs also claim that Johnson & Johnson has known since the 1970s that the raw talc used to manufacture these products could be tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, but failed to warn consumers and continued to market its talc-based powders as safe and effective for feminine hygiene.
Verdicts in the federal litigation’s bellwether trials will help gauge the strength of these allegations and could provide valuable insight into how future juries might decide similar talcum powder lawsuits.
Late last month, the judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation ruled that five of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses would be able to testify that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products can cause ovarian cancer based on epidemiological studies and that the association could be the result of asbestos contamination. While they will also be permitted to tell juries that talc can reach the ovaries when applied vaginally, they will not be allowed to state that it can do so through inhalation.