Johnson & Johnson has spent years defending itself against talc claims that its baby powder caused cancer and has sometimes suffered costly losses. But the company has had success in appeals, and that trend continued Tuesday with the reversal of a $110 million verdict.
In a new opinion, judges with the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that a St. Louis trial court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the claims because plaintiff Lois Slemp hailed from Virginia. In June 2017, a Supreme Court opinion involving Bristol-Myers Squibb limited where patients can sue drugmakers, even after Missouri juries ordered J&J to pay hundreds of millions to plaintiffs from outside of the state.
After the verdicts, J&J moved to appeal hundreds of millions of dollars of talc losses. Now, the company says it has successfully overturned four cases in Missouri’s appeals court.
A J&J spokeswoman Tuesday said the company sympathizes with “anyone suffering from cancer, and we understand patients and their families are seeking answers.
“The facts are clear—Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, as reflected in more than 40 years of scientific evidence,” she said.
J&J also prevailed in two talc cases last week, she added.
The decision marks a win for a drugmaker fighting a heavy litigation load. Aside from the highly publicized opioid lawsuits and 15,500 lawsuits claiming talc powders can cause cancer, a jury this week handed over a sky-high $8 billion verdict related to antipsychotic Risperdal. J&J has pledged to fight the lawsuits and appeal its losses.
In fact, J&J Chief Financial Officer Joe Wolk took a chance to address the litigation on Tuesday’s earnings conference call. He said talc is the “poster child for how big a business plaintiff's attorneys have made” suing drug companies. About 50% of product liability cases target life science companies, he said, at a time when products “have never been safer and have never been more effective.”
Plaintiffs' lawyers have spent $400 million this year to promote their lawsuits on TV, Wolk added. While J&J has faced some costly verdicts, Wolk said no case that has been fully adjudicated ended in a loss for the company.