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While there are thousands of Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson nationwide, jury selection will begin next week in Missouri for a state court trial involving 22 different women who each allege they developed ovarian cancer from talcum powder.
The trial is expected to last about six weeks, with each of the nearly two dozen claims raising similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer when the products are used by adult women for feminine hygiene purposes.
Several prior Missouri juries have already awarded multi-million dollar verdicts to individual women in other cases, but this will be the first talcum powder trial to go forward in the state since a Supreme Court decision last year, which limited Johnson & Johnson has attempted to argue limits the ability of non-resident plaintiffs to pursue their claims in state courts.
In the wake of that June 2017 Supreme Court decision, a mistrial was grained in a Missouri state court trial involving talcum powder, and Johnson & Johnson has removed thousands of cases brought in Missouri by women from other states to the federal court system, where they are centralized as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey.
However, in late November 2017, a Missouri judge upheld a $110 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a one of the early talcum powder trials, determining the Supreme Court ruling does not prevent the state court jury from awarding damages for failing to warn a non-resident about the risk of ovarian cancer, since there were sufficient connections between certain defendants in the case and the state of Missouri.
While the outcome of this multi-plaintiff trial will not be binding on other claims, it will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation as further evidence of how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
In the federal court system, there are currently about 7,000 cases pending before Judge Wolfson, who is expected to select a small group of representative cases for early trial dates.
Following these “bellwether” trials, if Johnson & Johnson fails to negotiate talcum powder settlements for women with ovarian cancer, the manufacturer may face thousands of individual cases in U.S. District Courts nationwide.
Some analysts have suggested that more big awards returned in early trial dates may provide troubling signals for Johnson & Johnson in the talcum powder litigation, suggesting that juries find the company’s trial defense lacking in credibility.