One Week Until JPML Date For Baby Powder Lawsuits
The motion to transfer talcum powder lawsuits into an MDL will be heard before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation next week.
Thursday, September 22, 2016 - One week remains before arguments regarding the certification of federal talcum powder lawsuits into multidistrict litigation will be heard before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). A September 29 date awaits the motion to transfer, which was filed by talcum powder lawyers representing plaintiff Tanashiska Lumas on July 15. The central defendant, Johnson & Johnson, has expressed its support for centralization in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Multiple plaintiffs have submitted their own preferences for the outcome of the hearing, with support both for and against the centralization of the lawsuits.
The original motion to transfer filed by Lumas requested that the litigation be centralized in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, which is close to where a large number of federal talcum powder lawsuits have been filed in St. Louis. Most of the Johnson & Johnson's baby powder lawsuits have been filed in either New Jersey or St. Louis, so it makes sense that the defense and the original motion to transfer would request corresponding districts to centralize the claims.
The talcum powder lawsuits came out of more than 20 medical studies linking the popular Johnson & Johnson cosmetic to ovarian cancer. The studies discovered consistent correlations between long-term genital talcum powder use and an increased risk for the development of ovarian cancer. In many cases talc particles were discovered in cancerous ovaries that had been removed, suggesting that they played a part in the development of the disease.
Johnson & Johnson has maintained that it has studies claiming that none of these correlations exist, but the mountain of evidence to the contrary brought about more than 1,000 lawsuits alleging that the company should have warned consumers about to potential cancer risk associated with their products. There are currently upwards of 1,200 Johnson & Johnson's baby powder lawsuits pending around the country, many of which could be affected if the motion to transfer the litigation into an MDL is approved.
The JPML's decisions usually take place a week or two following the hearing session. If consolidated, the federal lawsuits would be transferred to a single federal court to help coordinate pretrial proceedings. A number of plaintiffs have come out against the consolidation of the litigation, claiming that many of the talcum powder lawsuits that would be consolidated have already progressed far enough that they wouldn't necessarily benefit from a potential transfer.
Though Johnson & Johnson has requested that the federal suits be consolidated in New Jersey, that wouldn't necessarily mean the more than two hundred talcum powder lawsuits currently filed in New Jersey would be included in the transfer. Since Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Jersey, the lawsuits against the company filed in the state are handled by the state court. There has been multicounty consolidation in New Jersey, and the company would prefer the federal consolidation be centralized in the state as well as it would place all their litigative efforts regarding baby powder ovarian cancer lawsuits in the same place.
If consolidated, it will be interesting to see whether the JPML determines Southern Illinois or New Jersey to be the most convenient transfer location for Johnson & Johnson and other parties involved. Other potential locations for consolidation offered by plaintiffs include district courts in Georgia and Oklahoma, though these are less likely possibilities.