Already facing $200M in damages, J&J seeks to move talc cases out of St. Louis

After losing its third talc case in St. Louis, Johnson & Johnson plans to argue that the cases should be heard elsewhere. Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen.

Looking to rebound from three talc case defeats in St. Louis totaling nearly $200 million in damages, Johnson & Johnson is petitioning for a change of venue.

The New Jersey drugmaker will argue in appeals that Missouri isn’t right for the trials, Reuters reports, because the jury pool in the area has been tainted by millions in ad spending by its opponents. Attorneys for plaintiffs deny that charge, the news service said. J&J will also contend that a majority of women bringing the cases aren’t from St. Louis, nor is the company.

The company stands by its products’ safety and “deeply” sympathizes with those affected by ovarian cancer, J&J has said.

J&J faces about 2,500 cases making the claim that the company’s talc products caused women to get ovarian cancer, with most filed at the City of St. Louis Circuit Court, according to Reuters.

In federal trials, the drugmaker pushed to consolidate pretrial work in New Jersey, arguing that a judge there is the “most familiar with the issues.” New Jersey would be the most convenient location, J&J said, and has a comparatively light caseload.

Last month, a jury said J&J should be responsible for $67.5 million in talc-related ovarian cancer damages. Before that, J&J was found responsible in talc cases in February and May, when juries at the court awarded $72 million and $55 million in damages, respectively.

On the heels of the October decision, attorney Jere Beasley told Reuters he believes the drugmaker should be thinking about settling the cases. Beasley’s firm is representing hundreds of the talc cases and also served as co-lead counsel for the landmark $4.85 billion settlement by Merck over its Vioxx painkiller, the largest pharma settlement in U.S. history.

In the case of J&J’s talc powders, though, the products are still on store shelves, so a settlement might damage the brand's reputation and wouldn't limit any potential liability, Fordham School of Law professor Howard Erichson told the news service.

J&J did have some success in New Jersey in a state court in September, when a state judge tossed two cases there after finding “multiple deficiencies” with claims that the company’s talc products caused ovarian cancer. J&J later said “plaintiffs’ scientific experts could not adequately support their theories."