Last Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) filed an application for transfer asking the Missouri Supreme Court to reverse the $2.1 billion talc verdict, stating that the lower courts misapplied the law and improperly combined nearly two dozen cases from around the country into a single trial despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting the practice.
According to the filing, J&J maintained that the verdict “unconstitutionally punishes the defendant for purported harms to nonparties and acts in other jurisdictions.” The defendant argued that although the appeals court slashed the original $4.7 billion verdict, it failed to correct errors by the trial judge, further noting that this failure could result in more unfair trials in the future.
The case involves a group of 22 women who allege J&J's talcum powder products for causing cancer. The initial verdict favoring the plaintiffs was given in July 2018 by a state court jury. J&J appealed over the decision, following which the Missouri appeals court reduced the damages award to $2.1 billion in June 2020.
The defendant also noted that despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision the year before limiting the jurisdiction of state courts over out-of-state claims, Judge Rex Burlison allowed the out-of-state plaintiffs' cases into his St. Louis court. The plaintiffs did not have any connection with Missouri, yet Judge Burlison asserted jurisdiction claiming that the company had briefly distributed talcum powder from a Missouri supplier.
J&J is facing several lawsuits against its talcum powder products, each raising similar claims about the presence of asbestos and the risk of cancer. The company is concerned that the decision could order up more multi-plaintiff trials despite the new law.