Lawyers met with the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation this week, to discuss the next steps to preparing cases for trials of the thousands of talcum powder cancer lawsuits.
Currently, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) faces more than 16,500 Baby Powder and Shower to Shower lawsuits filed by women nationwide. All the lawsuits allege the presence of talc and asbestos particles in the company's baby powder product has resulted in ovarian cancer and other injuries among the women.
All the talcum powder lawsuits are centralized and brought before Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey for further developments of the multidistrict litigation (MDL). Last month, Judge Wolfson rejected J&J's plea to exclude witness testimony considering the Daubert standard for the development of the cases.
Last week, the lawyers met Judge Wolfson to discuss further proceedings of the MDL, and both sides were keen on moving the cases toward trials expeditiously. The manufacturers urged the court for early trial dates, whereas the plaintiffs insisted that there should be a specified investigation before the trials.
If the bellwether trials fail to settle, then the lawsuits will go back to U.S. District Courts nationwide with individual trial dates, as indicated by the court.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J), in a quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosed that it is facing a joint investigation by at least 41 states, examining how the company marketed its Baby Powder and other talcum powder products.
The probe involving 41 states is the latest legal dispute J&J would be facing, as its products are already subject to thousands of lawsuits pending in the courts nationwide, each claiming that the manufacturer knew for decades that their products contained asbestos and increased the risk of cancer, yet failed to warn consumers.
Meanwhile, last week, the U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, presiding over coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, issued an opinion, rejecting the efforts made by J&J to exclude plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony, allowing the talcum lawsuits to proceed further.
In the past, J&J suffered a series of massive losses, at trial in state courts, after failing to exclude plaintiffs expert witnesses under the federal Daubert standard. The company is expected to face substantial pressure over negotiation on talcum powder lawsuits settlements or could face years of trials throughout the federal court system.
Earlier, U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson issued an opinion, rejecting the efforts made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to exclude plaintiffs' expert witness testimony, allowing more than 17,000 talcum lawsuits to proceed further.
The judge issued a 141-page opinion determining that expert opinions offered by plaintiffs are sufficiently reliable and sound. J&J always defended the safety of its widely used talc-based products, arguing that general causation experts should be prevented from testifying at the trial.
The judge listened to the challenges faced by the parties for the admittance of expert witness testimony under the federal Daubert standard before scheduling the cases for trial. It requires that the opinions meet an evidentiary standard to ensure they are reliable enough to present to a jury.
The opinions to be presented by the plaintiffs' experts have also been limited. Talcum powder can cause cancer, a report based on epidemiological studies is the only general causation testimony to be allowed.