16,000 Johnson & Johnson talc cases get the green light from Judge Wolfson ruling

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (ThitareeSarmkasat)
© Getty Images \ (ThitareeSarmkasat)

Related tags: Talc, Johnson & johnson, Law, Cancer, Product safety

A ruling this week from US District Judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey allows testimony from plaintiffs’ medical and scientific experts, including specialists in gynecologic oncology, cancer prevention research, and occupational and environmental health. And, it clears the way for thousands of other lawsuits against J&J to proceed.

It was in early 2016 when Johnson & Johnson was first ordered to pay damages in a suit linking the use of talc to ovarian cancer, as Cosmetics Design reported.​ Attorneys from Beasley Allen’s Talc Litigation team helped represent plaintiff Jacqueline Fox (and her surviving family members) in that case and in six others since.

The case in question in this week’s ruling is Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, identified as multidistrict litigation (MDL) number 2738. And Beasley Allen lawyer Leigh O’Dell is co-chair of the plaintiffs’ steering committee.

Judge allows expert testimony for plaintiffs in J&J talc case  

This week’s ruling from US District Judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey allowing testimony from plaintiffs’ medical and scientific experts, comes out of Daubert hearings raised by Johnson & Johnson. Such hearings require the presiding judge to determine the admissibility of expert evidence; it’s a measure taken to rule out unqualified ‘experts’.

In this case, Judge Wolfson ruled to allow testimony from 3 of the 22 academic experts that J&J had hoped to exclude from the trials. Her ruling also means that certain additional expert testimony is also allowable.

The following 3 experts will be allowed to testify:

Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, who’s a Research Professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and the University of Washington School of Medicine, as well as a cancer prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Arch Carson, MD, PhD, an Associate Professor and Program Director for the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston

Daniel Clarke-Pearson, MD, a Professor and past Chairman in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Clarke-Pearson specializes in gynecologic oncology.

“These experts report on the growing amount of peer-reviewed medical literature regarding talcum powder and ovarian cancer and represent the increasing number of highly respected researchers and doctors who are standing up to tell the world about the dangers of talcum powder,”​ says O’Dell in an item posted on the Beasley Allen site this week​.

“These respected and qualified experts,”​ she adds, “will now testify in trials about the risk factors and causes of ovarian cancer, and the biological links of talcum powder use to this deadly disease.”

Moving forward with thousands of talc lawsuits against J&J

Judge Wolfson’s ruling that select experts meet the Daubert standard is a significant one. Had none of the proposed experts been okayed, J&J was expected to file to dismiss many if not all of the 16,000 talc cases pending against the multinational personal care company.

“The court’s Daubert decisions can be appealed by either side,” ​explains an item published last July about MDL no. 2738 on elitemedicalexperts.com​. The item acknowledged that “it may be some time before the court comes to a decision, but in either event, Judge Wolfson’s determination may serve as a benchmark in the field of medical expert witness testimony.”

Her ruling, as the item on the Beasley Allen site affirms, “paves the way for future bellwether trials that could establish compensatory and punitive damage guidelines for the more than 16,000 cases pending in the MDL.”

Michelle A. Parfitt, a Senior Partner with the law firm of Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP. and O’Dell’s co-chair on the plaintiffs’ steering committee, is satisfied with the results of the Daubert hearings: “We are obviously pleased with the court’s ruling and are eager to move forward,”​ Parfitt is quoted as saying in this week’s item on the Beasley Allen site.

“Epidemiologists and gynecologic oncologists,”​ she says, “will be allowed to testify that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, including their opinions regarding the contribution of asbestos, fibrous talc, and metals to its carcinogenicity.”

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DeannaUtroske-smallphoto

Deanna Utroske is a leading voice in the cosmetics and personal care industry​ as well as in the indie beauty movement. As Editor of CosmeticsDesign.com, she writes daily news about the business of beauty in the Americas region and regularly produces video interviews with cosmetics, fragrance, personal care, and packaging experts as well as with indie brand founders.

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