Juries across the country have been handing down “eye catching” verdicts for plaintiffs with ovarian cancer and their families against Johnson & Johnson. The most recent included a nearly $4.7 billion verdict for 22 plaintiffs in Missouri. Plaintiff’s claim J&J knowingly, for 49 years, sold talcum baby powder tainted with asbestos which resulted in the consumer developing ovarian cancer. About 6,600 woman have sued the company.

However, J&J has successfully appealed many of these verdicts due to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 2017 Bristol-Myers Squibb decision now makes it harder for plaintiffs from multiple states to consolidate their claims together. Plaintiffs can now only sue companies in their homes state or the state in which the company resides.

Plaintiffs in the newest talcum verdict are from multiple states: Missouri, Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Bristol-Meyers Squibb has created questions as to whether the verdict will hold up on appeal. It’s possible J&J could get the verdict reversed, a J&J spokeswoman has already stated they plan to appeal on jurisdictional bases.

The Supreme Court’s decision left unclear whether plaintiffs can sue in the state where a company has business interests. Plaintiffs in the Missouri talc case contend J&J’s talcum powder was purchased and bottled for them by Pharma Tech Industries which has a plant in Missouri, thereby giving Missouri jurisdiction. J&J also ran focus groups on the product and had their lobbyist pay large sums to money to influence Missouri law.

If the verdict stands on appeal, this may clear up some unanswered questions about the limits of Bristol-Meyers Squibb. University of Georgia School of Law professor Elizabeth Burch states it has not been fully established that a simple business connection is sufficient to establish jurisdiction. 

“I don’t think Bristol-Myers Squibb answers the question of whether those have to be linked. That tees up the issue here.” – Professor Elizabeth Burch, University of George School of Law

Read more:

Will the $4.7B Talc Verdict Hold On Appeal?,The Legal Intelligencer, July 13, 2018

St. Louis Jury Issues &4.7 Billion Verdict After Trial Linking Talc to 22 Cancer Patients, The Legal Intelligencer, July 13, 2018

Missouri Appeals Court Reverses $55M Talc Verdict Against J&J, New Jersey Law Journal, July 3, 2018

Jurors in NJ Talc Trial Reject J&J’s  Bid to Tarnish Plaintiffs’ Scientific Evidence, New Jersey Law Journal, April 6, 2018

J&J Jury Set to Weigh Banker’s Claims Baby Powder Caused Cancer, Bloomberg, April 4, 2018