Talc lawsuits starting to pile up for Johnson & Johnson

By Mike Helenthal | Jul 1, 2016

ST. LOUIS – Plaintiffs attorneys throughout the country, including in Florida, are working to bring alleged victims of talc to court following two multimillion-dollar judgments rendered in a St. Louis district court.

Johnson & Johnson says it will appeal both cases, one which awarded a woman $55 million, the other which awarded another woman $72 million. The separate cases were brought to trial after the women claimed to have gotten cancer after long-time use of the company’s talc products.

“The first appeal has been filed; the other is in process,” Carol Goodrich, Johnson & Johnson’s global media relations director, told the Florida Record.

Both women were represented by the Onder Law Firm, based in suburban St. Louis, which plans to bring forward another 1,000 talc cases in St. Louis court and is soliciting other cases through a national advertising campaign.

And they’re not the only ones.

In Florida, you need only to look as far as the attorneygroup.com website to get all of the information an alleged talc victim would need to start consulting with an attorney.

“When people suffer from severe side effects from a dangerous or defective product, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages,” says the website. “The types of losses that can be recovered include past and future medical expenses, lost wages or ability to work and pain and suffering.”

It goes on to say that if the person dies, family members may be able to recover wrongful death awards.

Goodrich said, while the company is aware of the other cases and aggressively pursuing the appeals, it also has intensified its efforts to educate the public about its products safety.

“Everyone at Johnson & Johnson sympathizes deeply with the women and families who have been affected by ovarian cancer, a devastating disease with no known cause,” she said.

But she said it’s the company’s contention that there is no link between ovarian cancer and the use of talc.

“Thirty years of studies by medical experts around the world, science, research and clinical evidence continues to support the safety of cosmetic talc,” she said.

Even prior to the company’s legal entanglements, she said, the notion that cosmetic talc is dangerous has gotten traction in some online circles.

Recent studies showing an increased cancer risk of talc use, especially among African-American women, have emboldened critics and produced doubt among some consumers.

She said the company continues to share research it says supports talc as a safe product.

“We developed a website years ago to provide consumers and other external audiences with important information about our company, research and development process and our products,” she said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has been working to change the expert testimony law in Missouri, which it says sets a low bar for credentials that can be used by aggressive attorneys to sway a journey and produce an unfair outcome.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to the standards for scientific studies, data and expert testimony allowed in a court trial, the Show-Me State is one of the weakest in the nation,” said Lisa Rickard, the president of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.

She said the expert witness used in the Johnson & Johnson trials claiming talc’s toxicity would not have met that standard.

The chamber has been pushing for the state’s adoption of the Daubert standard, a standard for professional witnesses established by the U.S. Supreme Court. She said most states use it to provide a high trial standard for professional witnesses.

“Changing Missouri’s standard of scientific evidence isn’t just good for civil justice, but wrongful criminal convictions as well, where innocent people are put in jail based on shoddy evidence,” she said.

Critics say the law is used by big-company attorneys who are able to strike witnesses because their opinions fall outside of the accepted mainstream.

The Missouri legislature recently passed the bill, though it was later vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

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