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Johnson’s Baby Powder Suffers Serious Setback in Court

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

For years, the manufacturers of Johnson’s Baby Powder have fought allegations that the product caused ovarian cancer by calling the evidence “junk science”. Now, that will be harder to do after a federal judge ruled that five scientific experts for the plaintiffs, two of whom have testified before Congress on talcum powder safety, could appear before juries.

Johnson & Johnson has lost several verdicts in the talcum powder cases, including one last year awarding $4.7 billion to 22 women. On the science, Johnson & Johnson won a key 2016 ruling from Atlantic County, New Jersey, Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson, who tossed the plaintiffs’ experts over their “made-for-litigation” methods and tactics. In 2017, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson tossed a $417 million talc verdict, affirmed on appeal last year, after citing an “ongoing debate in the scientific and medical community” over whether talc caused ovarian cancer.

The ruling is the first in which a federal judge has ruled on the scientific evidence in talc trials and its a significant victory for those who’ve contracted ovarian cancer after using the ubiquitous product.

For decades, Johnson’s Baby Powder was trusted to be safe and healthy for babies and moms. In the fall of 2019, Johnson & Johnson issued a massive recall of the talc due to safety concerns. According to the NY Times, ” Johnson & Johnson, which has spent years insisting that its baby powder is safe, recalled 33,000 bottles of the product on Friday after the Food and Drug Administration discovered evidence of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in one of the bottles.”

Plaintiffs in the talc cases have accused Johnson & Johnson of failing to warn customers of the risks of asbestos contamination, despite being aware of concerns for decades. A New York Times investigation last year found internal memos and reports made public during litigation that document executives’ concerns about potential contamination that date back 50 years.

Johnson & Johnson disclosed this year that it was being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over concerns about possible asbestos contamination of its talc-based products.

Now that U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson has ruled that the plaintiffs experts may testify in the talc bellwether trials, the pressure is on Johnson & Johnson. This was a major blow to their argument that the science wasn’t there to prove that their product was dangerous and caused cancer.

At Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP, we are aggressively filing talc lawsuits in the federal MDL (multi-district litigation) with Judge Freda Wolfson. We are seeking justice for all those women who contracted ovarian cancer after using a product they thought was safe.

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