Published: Thu, October 19, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Court tosses out $72 million Johnson & Johnson talcum powder verdict

Court tosses out $72 million Johnson & Johnson talcum powder verdict

A $72 million award in a lawsuit linking talcum powder with ovarian cancer has been overturned by a Missouri appeals court. She died in 2015, about four months before her case went to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court. Consequently, in the Johnson & Johnson lawsuit, only 2 out of the 65 plaintiffs resided in Missouri.

In 2016, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of Jacqueline Fox. The 2006 award she received was the first of several cases that claimed talcum powder contributed to Ovarian cancer. The Bristol-Myers Squibb case said non-California residents could not file claims there against the New York-based maker of the blood thinner Plavix, ruling that establishing a lawsuit's jurisdiction requires a stronger connection between the forum state and a plaintiff's claims. Only two of the 64 people who joined in Fox's lawsuit lived in Missouri.

Fox's lawyers argued her claims should stand in Missouri because Johnson & Johnson and its supplier, Imerys, use Pharma Tech, a company with a plant in Union, Mo., to package and label talc products. The court said the trial should not have taken place in the state because Fox was from Alabama. But the Missouri Eastern District appeals court tossed that award Tuesday based on jurisdiction-related issues, according to The Kansas City Star. A spokeswoman said the company has consistently argued that Missouri had no jurisdiction in cases involving non-residents and the company expects the existing judgments that are going through the appeals process to be reversed.

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Within days of the Supreme Court ruling, a mistrial was declared in a Missouri state court in another lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that involved three plaintiffs, two from out of state. It involves the Missourian, Michael Blaes of Webster Groves, whose wife died of ovarian cancer. She was 62 years old.

Talc is a soft mineral that is widely used in personal care products to absorb moisture and for other products including paint and plastics. But some smaller studies have found a small link and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as "possibly carcinogenic".

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