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The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to consolidate all talcum powder lawsuits filed on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer or other injuries after using products like Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower Body Powder for feminine hygiene purposes.
Over the past year, a growing number of complaints have been filed against Johnson & Johnson over failure to warn about the risk of ovarian cancer from side effects of talcum powder, with plaintiffs alleging that the talc contained in the powder may migrate through the vagina and into the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries.
In a Notice to the Bar (PDF) issued on November 25, it was announced that cases filed throughout New Jersey state court will be centralized before Judges Julio L. Mendez and Nelson C. Johnson in Atlantic County, as part of a Multi-County Litigation (MCL).
The decision comes following a request filed by Johnson & Johnson and other defendants in May, which indicated that there were more than 100 ovarian cancer lawsuits over talcum powder pending throughout the state at that time, involving more than 156 plaintiffs. Most of the cases were originally filed in Atlantic County.
Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the claims, the manufacturers argued that such consolidation would serve the convenience of the court, witnesses, and all parties, and would prevent duplicative discovery and contradictory rulings.
The Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits allege that women were provided insufficient warnings about the risks associated with applying the powder to the female genitals, with several reports indicating that evidence of talc was found in the ovarian tumors.
While Johnson’s Baby Powder is the most commonly associated with use on infants to smooth skin and prevent diaper rash, it is popular among adult women for general hygiene purposes. Given the popularity among women, Shower-to-Shower talcum powder is marketed specifically for this use.
The lawsuits come following a number of studies that have suggested a potential link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, it is expected that a small group of cases may be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcomes of these early trials will not be binding in other cases, they may influence eventual talcum powder settlements to resolve the litigation.