Saturday, May 8, 2021 - Reuters reports that Johnson & Johnson may be at the forefront of one of the most important legal issues of our day. The article is not referring to the legal challenges the company faces defending their alleged bad actions regarding deceptively marketing opioids by understating their addictive characteristics, or their marketing reps misrepresenting hernia repair and vaginal support mesh as being more effective than using natural tissue. What is in the news today is the company‘s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of their 2018 trial loss to 22 plaintiffs who were grouped in a single case. The group alleged that using Johnson‘s Baby Powder regularly for many years caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson claims that their iconic brand of talcum powder is safe, pure, and asbestos-free. The appeal is based on their belief that their 14th amendment constitutional right to a fair trial was violated. The defendants think that grouping 22 women together as one inflated the importance of the plaintiff‘s case and influenced the jury to overlook the lack of scientific evidence. The appeal claims that the consolidated plaintiffs also inflated the punitive damages award. Johnson & Johnson‘s Supreme Court appeal is based on the theory that "the company‘s defense was undermined by the consolidated proceeding, in which jurors heard emotional testimony from the most sympathetic plaintiffs and endured five hours of jury instructions on the laws of all of the plaintiffs‘ different home states," according to the Reuters report. Defense attorneys are concerned that the backlog of court cases created by the Covid-19 lockdown delays could normalize multiple-plaintiff trials and deny the clients their constitutional right to a fair trial. They fear that talcum powder cancer cases could be consolidated into small groups to alleviate the burden on the courts. Defense Counsel Group Backs Johnson & Johnson‘s Appeal to the Supreme Court. Visit talcum powder cancer lawsuit to learn more.
The amicus briefs supporting the appeal each focused on a different avenue of law. One was the lack of hard scientific evidence that using Johnson‘s Baby Powder caused cancer. Other studies conducted recently analyzing data on multiple plaintiff trials from 2010 to 2014 showed that consolidated trials were "vastly more likely to win, according to the brief - and to win big. The mean plaintiffs‘ verdict in individual trials was about $9 million. In consolidated trials, the average plaintiff‘s verdict was $23 million," Reuters reported. Another reason that the group cited in their briefs were that that repetition of causation evidence creates a "false inference" of causation. Also, the inclusion of out-of-state (Missouri) plaintiffs created a failure of due process and that "the Missouri courts erred in concluding that out-of-state plaintiffs could establish jurisdiction merely by showing that a J&J talc product was packaged in Missouri by an unrelated company."
The results of the Supreme Court case could influence the more than 20000 cases against Johnson & Johnson where women with ovarian cancer blame using Johnson‘s Baby Powder.