Florida Talcum Powder Lawsuit Over Ovarian Cancer Warnings Ends in Defense Verdict for J&J

The verdict marks the first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit to be completed since Johnson & Johnson attempted to force the settlement of all claims through the U.S. Bankruptcy system, delaying the litigation for two years.

A jury in Florida state court has issued a defense verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson, finding that the manufacturer was not responsible for a woman’s development of ovarian cancer following use of talcum powder products.

The decision came on Thursday, in Florida Circuit Court for Sarasota County, in a trial that began earlier this month. The lawsuit was brought by the family of Patricia Matthey, who died of ovarian cancer in 2019.

According to evidence presented at trial, Matthey used Johnson’s Baby Powder every day from 1965 until 2016, due to advertisements by the manufacturer suggesting she needed to use talc on her genitals to prevent odor. However, the family claimed that Johnson & Johnson knew or should have know that would increase her risk of developing ovarian cancer, and withheld warnings from consumers for decades.

The case is one of about about 54,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits that Johnson & Johnson currently faces, each involving similar allegations that asbestos particles in the talcum powder lead to the development of ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other injuries.

Following massive jury awards returned in cases that went to trial several years ago, the manufacturer decided to initiate a controversial talcum powder bankruptcy scheme in 2021, as part of an attempt to force any settlement for the cases through the U.S. bankruptcy system.  Although courts eventually rejected the bankruptcy filing, since Johnson & Johnson faces no financial distress and has sufficient assets to cover the liability for failing to warn about the talcum powder cancer risks, the move delayed the litigation for more than two more years.

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Talcum powder or talc powder may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.

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The defense verdict ended the second talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit to go to trial following Johnson & Johnson’s failed bankruptcy attempts. The first trial, also held in Florida state court, ended in a hung jury in March.

In that case, brought by a husband whose wife died of ovarian cancer the same year as Matthey, the jury was unable to reach a verdict after a three-week trial and two days of deliberations. The judge in that case declared a mistrial.

April 2024 Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits Update

While there are numerous similar lawsuits filed in state courts nationwide, all federal talcum powder cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson specifically have been centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey since 2016 for coordinated pretrial proceedings, currently being overseen by U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp.

Until August 2023, all proceedings in the litigation were barred under a bankruptcy stay. However, after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael B. Kaplan rejected the second talcum powder bankruptcy filing in July 2023, after determining that it was “filed in bad faith” and that LTL Management still did not face financial distress requiring bankruptcy protections, progress is getting underway once again in a federal talcum powder MDL, which was initially established in 2016. The company proposed a talcum powder settlement during the stay which plaintiffs rejected as inadequate.

With the stay now lifted, plaintiffs lawyers and Johnson & Johnson are now preparing a group of ovarian cancer lawsuits for potential jury trials in the federal court system, which may begin sometime in 2024. In addition, a number of additional individual state court cases are expected to go before juries throughout the country.

However, Johnson & Johnson appears to have been able to delay talcum powder lawsuit trials yet again, by convincing Judge Shipp to require parties to again go through Daubert hearings designed to determine whether expert witnesses will be allowed to testify. Judge Shipp agreed, despite the court having gone through the exact same process before the bankruptcy proceedings.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson has threatened to make a third attempt at a bankruptcy solution in the near future, which could again prevent plaintiffs from having their cases heard in a timely manner, even as some of them continue to die from ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other ailments blamed on its talc-based products.

Patricia Matthey was alive when her litigation was started, and even was able to give testimony before she died.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers and Johnson & Johnson are preparing a group of ovarian cancer lawsuits for potential jury trials for later this year. Judge Shipp has not indicated how the Daubert hearings would affect that schedule, only saying that subsequent scheduling orders will reflect the new timeline.

While the results of these individual trials will not be directly binding on other claims, the average talcum powder lawsuit payouts awarded by juries are expected to greatly influence the potential settlement values that Johnson & Johnson could be required to pay to avoid the need for each individual case to go to trial in the coming years.

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