On September 9, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson, overseeing the talcum powder lawsuits, rejected Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) request to appoint court-approved experts to assist jurors in upcoming bellwether trials, stating that the move would interfere with the independent assessment of the evidence by the jurors.
On August 12, J&J sent a letter seeking permission to file a motion to appoint an independent expert witness in the areas of epidemiology and cancer biology, to help the jurors understand scientific issues in the litigation, as both the parties would be presenting “diametrically opposite scientific positions” about whether talc use can cause ovarian cancer.
The plaintiffs urged opposition to the proposal, stating that it raises significant Constitutional concerns, and the questions that the defendant wants independent expert witness to be answered must be addressed by the jury.
According to the letter order issued by the court, Judge Wolfson said that such an extreme measure is not required as the court has cleared competent experts from both sides to testify at trial. She also noted that such a group of experts would needlessly delay the litigation and may have a deleterious effect as the jurors would have to weigh on the testimony of ‘neutral’ experts, which would prove to be unjust.
Currently, J&J faces more than 20,000 Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits, each raising similar allegations about the presence of asbestos and the risk of cancer.