J&J pushes to move talcum powder cancer lawsuits to NJ, where it's won two

At least 18 federal lawsuits claiming Johnson & Johnson’s ($JNJ) talc-based powders caused ovarian cancer could be consolidated for pretrial work, and J&J wants that litigation in New Jersey, its home state--the same state where it recently persuaded a judge to toss two related cases.

Early this month, Johnson & Johnson was able to convince New Jersey state court judge Nelson Johnson to dismiss two of the lawsuits arguing that the company’s talc powder caused the plaintiff’s ovarian cancer. According to Bloomberg, Johnson said the claims suffered from “multiple deficiencies.”

Separately, in a response to plaintiff Tanashiska Lumas, who asked to group at least 18 federal cases for pretrial proceedings, J&J is pushing to head to New Jersey on grounds that a judge there is the “most familiar with the issues.” J&J said that New Jersey would be the most convenient and that the court there isn’t as busy as others, as well.

If the multidistrict litigation weren’t to head to New Jersey, the drugmaker said the Western District of Oklahoma would suffice, going against Lumas’ request for it to take place in the Southern District of Illinois.

J&J faces more than 1,000 cases grouped in state court in St. Louis, Bloomberg said. Another 200 are consolidated in New Jersey state courts.

In two recent decisions as part of the ongoing saga, J&J was hit in February with a $72 million verdict and in May with $55 million in damages. The New Jersey-based drugmaker said it would appeal one case and was evaluating its options for the other.

Even after the verdict in May, which some suggested could prompt a global settlement, attorney Gene Williams said that wouldn’t likely be the case. Williams, who defended J&J during three talc suits, said the company would continue to fight the cases and argue that its talc products are safe.  

There was “no proven linkage” between the products and ovarian cancer, Williams said, adding that the “science supporting the safety of talc has gotten stronger and stronger.”

Meanwhile, J&J continues to fight lawsuits alleging that its antipsychotic drug Risperdal triggered breast development in boys. In July, a federal jury handed damages of $70 million to one plaintiff, an award J&J is appealing. The company faces 1,500 similar lawsuits.

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