With $2 billion on the line, the highest court in the nation has refused to hear an appeal that aimed to undo a jury award given to cancer patients and their families. On June 1, 2021, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the defendant, Johnson & Johnson, to overturn a judgment awarded in a talc powder lawsuit, the Associated Press reported.
The Original Trial and the Appeals
Officially, what happened is not that the Supreme Court “found in favor” of the plaintiffs. Rather, the Justices rejected J&J’s petition for a writ of certiorari—in other words, the corporation’s request for the Supreme Court to review the decision. (Two Justices, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, did not take part in the decision because of connections to the case that could potentially amount to a conflict of interest, the Associated Press reported.)
Thus, Johnson & Johnson asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the case. The Supreme Court declined to do so, effectively allowing the current judgment to stand.
The case in question was Johnson & Johnson, et al., Petitioners v. Gail L. Ingham, et al., in which a St. Louis jury decided in favor of the plaintiffs in this case. At the time (2018), the jury had decided to award $4.7 billion to the 22 plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit.
Johnson & Johnson has continued to fight the outcome of the trial. The company asked a Missouri appeals court to throw out the judgment entirely in June 2020, according to the Associated Press. The appeals court declined to do so, noting that “there was significant reprehensibility in defendants’ conduct” and that “the harm suffered by plaintiffs was physical, not just economic.”
The Missouri appeals court did, however, determine that not all of the 22 plaintiffs should have been included in the original trial, since not all of them had the legal standing to file a lawsuit of this nature in the state of Missouri. Because of this, the appeals court removed two of the plaintiffs from the lawsuit and decreased the judgment to $2.1 billion, the Associated Press reported.
If J&J still hoped to reverse the judgment, the company would have to take the case to an even higher court, which led it to file the petition for a writ of certiorari in March 2021. The grounds under which Johnson & Johnson attempted to appeal the judgment were related to matters of legal procedure, according to NBC News, which noted that the Supreme Court justices did not say why they had declined to hear the case but that this is consistent with the Supreme Court’s “usual practice.”
The argument based on which Johnson & Johnson requested the Supreme Court to review the decision was, as NBC News reported, “that the Missouri courts unfairly combined the cases of nearly two dozen women from several states whose cancer severity varied widely” instead of trying cases individually, in some instances in other states. Johnson & Johnson has cited concerns over “jury confusion” related to the consolidation of multiple plaintiffs into one trial. Other questions Johnson & Johnson’s petition asked the Supreme Court to consider if they were to review the case would have included questions pertaining to whether the punitive damages awarded in this case “violates due process.”
What to Know About Talc Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits
“… researchers have linked genital talcum powder use with a 20 to 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk.”
The basis of these lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson is the allegation, backed by the testimony of expert witnesses, that talcum powder use is linked to ovarian cancer. Some researchers have linked genital talcum powder use with a 20 to 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk, with the strongest associations applying to non-mucinous epithelial ovarian tumors.
Generally, the claimants pursuing talc powder lawsuits are ovarian cancer patients or the surviving family members of women who lost their lives due to ovarian cancer. The cancer patient has usually used talcum powder, like Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder or Shower to Shower product, in the genital area, often on a regular basis and/or for a period of years.
It’s Not Too Late to File Your Talc Powder Lawsuit
Although the $2 billion jury award in question was awarded to a group of 20 women who developed ovarian cancer, this isn’t the end of talc powder ovarian cancer lawsuits. In fact, there are thousands of ongoing cases against Johnson & Johnson.
If you developed ovarian cancer after regular talcum powder use—or if you suspect that this is what happened to a loved one who lost her cancer battle—then you, too, may be entitled to money damages. An attorney can help you determine whether talcum powder use was likely to be involved in the development of ovarian cancer and, if so, if your situation meets the parameters for a viable claim for compensation.