On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court reinstated two lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) talcum powder of causing cancer; the lawsuits were dismissed by a trial judge in 2016.
The lawsuits were brought by two plaintiffs, who claimed that they developed ovarian cancer from J&J's Baby Powder. The decision over the dismissal of the lawsuits is reversed nearly four years after Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson favored the defendants claiming expert testimony offered by the plaintiffs was insufficient.
In an 86 page opinion, the panel of appellate judges indicated that plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony was not accurately weighed by Judge Johnson, and the ruling was a misuse of the judge’s responsibility, which prevented the cases from proceeding.
The cases will go back to the New Jersey state trial court, where several other cases are awaiting over the past few years, depending on the outcome of this appeal.
Ted Meadows, one of the lawyers representing women in talcum powder cases, stated that approximately 1,000 ovarian cancer cases are pending in the New Jersey state court, and many more are expected to be filed as the ruling paves the way to proceed to trial.
This is the second hit on J&J after a Missouri appellate court denied its motion to reconsider a $2.1B talcum verdict last month.
Talc, one of the main ingredients in baby powder, is considered cosmetic when used in makeup and body powders, which required very little federal oversight. The law does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use, the FDA cannot take any action.
Despite several studies highlighting the cancer risk, the FDA does not require Baby Powder warnings on talc-based product labels to be updated. Moreover, J&J has also refused to add one, willingly.
More than 20,000 Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits are filed against J&J in courts nationwide, each raising similar claims about the presence of asbestos and the risk of cancer. Most of the lawsuits are consolidated under multidistrict litigation, MDL No. 2738, whereas some are pending in state courts in Pennsylvania. Lawsuits are also pending in a California coordinated proceeding as a part of Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding No. 4877.