Johnson & Johnson aims to torpedo thousands of talc cases with one high-stakes hearing

Johnson & Johnson faces about 14,200 lawsuits alleging harm from talc, and Monday marks its next big test.

In a New Jersey courtroom, the drugmaker plans to challenge expert evidence set to be presented at trial—and the judge's decision will determine the fate of most of the outstanding lawsuits.

That evidence is key to 85% of the cases grouped for consideration in J&J's home state. If the court decides the plaintiffs' expert evidence can't be used in court, then "there's nowhere for these cases to go," a lawyer for J&J told the Wall Street Journal.

Apparently, the company has high hopes for the outcome. "[W]hen folks have a chance to really look at the facts in these cases, they see that the product is safe and that the company acted responsibly," CFO Joe Wolk told analysts on the company's Q1 earnings call last week.

The talc plaintiffs argue J&J's products caused them to develop cancer and that the company hid the risks from the public.

Meanwhile, at a federal court in Delaware, J&J on Friday fell short in its attempt to combine 2,400 state lawsuits from around the country in the court where several units for its supplier Imerys filed for bankruptcy.

RELATED: High-stakes talc trial ends in whopping $4.7B verdict for Johnson & Johnson

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika rejected the company’s request to move those cases to her court. Among her laundry list of reasons: The cases don’t have much to do with Imerys bankruptcy proceedings. Plus, moving them would overburden her court while impeding their progress in courts around the country, she wrote.  

A J&J spokeswoman said the company is "disappointed" with the decision because the company's request, if granted, "would have streamlined the process for reviewing current cases and increased overall efficiency for all parties involved."

The drugmaker faces about 14,200 lawsuits alleging harm from its talc powder, and only a fraction of those cases have played out in a trial. So far, in numerous verdicts, juries have together awarded billions in damages. But as a spokeswoman said last month, every verdict against J&J that’s made it through appeals has been overturned. 

RELATED: Jury smacks J&J with $325M talc verdict after a series of other wins 

Aside from the talc injury cases, the company now faces a criminal investigation over its public statements in defense of the iconic product, Bloomberg reported earlier in July.