As of today, there have been four multi-million verdicts totaling more than $300 million against Johnson & Johnson in just over 15 months over claims that the consumer giant’s talcum powder products have caused ovarian cancer. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that all of these verdicts have come from St. Louis juries. The largest yet came most recently on May 4 when jurors awarded $110.5 million to a 62-year-old ovarian cancer patient who said she used the company’s products for decades for feminine hygiene purposes.
Plaintiffs seeking justice in talcum powder cases have come to St. Louis from many other states including California, Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee. They came seeking quick trials, friendly jurors and above all, justice. Talcum powder lawsuits have found a haven in St. Louis in part because Missouri law allows out-of-state plaintiffs to join forces and sue there. Each of the five trials held so far in St. Louis has lasted about a month with plaintiffs going one by one in a “bellwether” approach, which is designed to predict how future trials could play out.
Victims Want Their Day in Court
So, why are plaintiffs’ attorneys rushing to Missouri with their cases? It turns out that contrary to popular belief, it’s not for a quick payout. It’s because these plaintiffs are in a situation where they may not live to see their day in court. Many have been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. And that means they don’t have the time to wait around for a case to work its way through the court system.
Take the case of Lois Slemp of Virginia who was the recipient of the $110.5 million verdicts. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and was too ill to even attend the trial. In many cases, victims have already passed away. The next likely plaintiff to go to trial is a man from the St. Louis area whose wife died of ovarian cancer six years ago due to talcum powder use.
Attorneys for large corporations have not idly watched as the large verdicts rolled out of St. Louis courts. They’ve been busy filing briefs vigorously protesting residents from other states who try to get their cases heard in Missouri. The future of talc litigation in St. Louis may be riding on a looming U.S. Supreme Court ruling dealing with proper jurisdiction.
One case will determine if non-California residents can file claims in Missouri against Bristol-Myers Squibb, manufacturer of the blood-thinning drug, Plavix. Meanwhile, the appeals process in the first talcum powder verdict has already begun at the Missouri Eastern District appeals court in St. Louis. As talcum powder attorneys who are fighting to bring justice to affected victims and families that have lost loved ones, we hope these families continue to get the justice they seek and rightfully deserve.