A month after scoring a rare victory in a fight to defend the safety of its talcum powder, Johnson & Johnson is back in court hoping to extend the winning streak. On Tuesday, the drugmaker's lawyers clashed with attorneys for Lois Slemp as a new case got underway alleging a link between the product and ovarian cancer.
In opening remarks, J&J’s attorney said the drugmaker will fight back against the “serious” accusations, according to The National Law Journal (reg. req.), adding that the claims are “unfounded,” “unfair,” and “carefully crafted.”
Of course, that statement runs against what Slemp’s attorneys told the jury, according to Law360 (reg. req.). Representing the 61-year-old ovarian cancer patient, attorney Allen Smith said J&J hid the ovarian cancer risks to preserve “corporate image over human life.”
The arguments in a St. Louis court come just over a month after a jury in the same city sided with J&J in a separate case, dismissing a plaintiff’s claim that her talc powder use caused ovarian cancer. Eleven out of 12 jurors sided with the drugmaker in that case.
At the time, a company spokesperson said J&J “deeply” sympathizes with ovarian cancer patients and their families, but that the jury’s ruling was “consistent with the science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world that continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.” Afterward, the plaintiff’s attorney continued to assert that a link exists.
That decision in March reversed a damaging trend for J&J in St. Louis, where to that point it had suffered three consecutive courtroom losses worth nearly $200 million. Last year, separate juries awarded $72 million in damages in February, $55 million in May and $67 million in October.
Going forward, J&J is facing thousands of other talc cases in St. Louis, where the company argues that the jury pool is tainted due to millions in ad spending by its opponents. Outside of St. Louis, the company recently convinced a judge in New Jersey to toss two cases.
It also faces at least 18 cases in federal court and last fall pushed to consolidate the pretrial work on those cases to its home state of New Jersey, where it has already won two cases.