Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits Filed On Behalf of 237 Women Remanded Back to State Court

A federal judge has ordered the remand of three lawsuits filed on behalf of 237 different women who claim they were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following use of talcum powder products, sending that cases back to Missouri state court.

Johnson & Johnson removed the cases to the federal court system, arguing that the cases constitute a “mass action,” providing federal jurisdiction over the claims. However, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry issued an order (PDF) last week, rejecting the argument and sending the cases back to the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, where the plaintiffs originally filed the actions.

The complaints raise similar allegations to those presented in a number of Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson over the past year. Plaintiffs claim that the manufacturer failed to provide sufficient warnings for women about the risk of ovarian cancer associated with use of the talcum powder around the female genitals.

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

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While a handful of complaints have been seen in the federal court system, most of the litigation is pending in either Missouri state court or New Jersey state court.

Judge Perry determined that for Johnson & Johnson to remove the cases to the federal court, the plaintiffs would have had to either explicitly or implicitly imply that there were 100 or more persons seeking a joint trial as a mass action. However, she found no evidence of such an intent in the plaintiffs’ filings. Instead, she noted that plaintiffs only wanted the case in the same state court in Missouri for pre-trial proceedings.

Johnson & Johnson argued that the request by plaintiffs for the same judge for pre-trial proceedings and the scheduling plans they filed constituted a proposal for a joint trial, but Judge Perry disagreed. She said there is no presumption that the cases would go to trial together, even if they were all on the same docket.

“Despite this reality, Johnson & Johnson would have me conclude that plaintiffs’ ‘true purpose’ here was to seek a joint trial of their cases based on nothing more than parallel dates submitted in three separate proposed scheduling plans without any explanation of what these proposed dates actually mean. This I cannot do,” Judge Perry determined. “Here, the parties never had a conference with the Division 10 judge about these proposed scheduling plans because Johnson & Johnson rushed to this courthouse with its removal papers immediately upon receiving the email from plaintiffs’ counsel.”

Johnson’s Baby Powder is the most popular form of talcum powder, which is commonly associated with use on infants to smooth skin and prevent diaper rash. However, it is also widely used by adult women for general hygiene purposes. Given the popularity among women, Shower-to-Shower talcum powder is marketed specifically for this use.

The lawsuits stem from concerns raised in several studies that suggest talcum powder applied to the female genitals may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, with talc often found in tumors among long-term users of the products. However, plaintiffs claim that the only talcum powder warnings provided to consumers suggest to avoid contact with the eyes or broken areas of the skin.


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