Court tosses out $72 million Johnson & Johnson talcum powder verdict

Henrietta Brewer
October 19, 2017

A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday threw out a $72 million award to a woman who claimed talcum powder made by Johnson & Johnson contributed to her ovarian cancer, saying Missouri was not the proper jurisdiction for the lawsuit.

Johnson & Johnson appealed, and the verdict was thrown out on Tuesday. She died in 2015, about four months before her case went to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.

The 2016 verdict for Fox's family was the first of four jury awards totaling $307 million in state court in St. Louis to plaintiffs who accused J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products.

The appeals court Tuesday ruled 3-0 that Jacqueline Fox's lawsuit lacked jurisdiction in Missouri because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that imposed limits on where injury lawsuits can be filed. The high court, in a case involving Bristol-Myers Squibb, ruled there had to be a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.

More than 1,000 others have filed similar lawsuits in St. Louis against Johnson & Johnson, which is based in Brunswick, New Jersey.

The $72 million awarded to Fox's family by jurors included $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages. The appeals court said Ms. Fox's case should not have been held in St. Louis as Ms. Fox resided in Alabama.

"In the cases involving non-resident plaintiffs who sued in the state of Missouri, we consistently argued that there was no jurisdiction", Carol Goodrich, company spokeswoman, said in an email. All but one prevailed; Johnson & Johnson appealed all of the verdicts against the company. A California jury returned a $417 million jury verdict in the first California trial over the claims in August.

Fox's lawyers argued her claims should stand in Missouri because Johnson & Johnson and its supplier, Imerys, use Pharma Tech, a company with a plant in Union, Mo., to package and label talc products. That trial has not yet been rescheduled. According to the lawyers, she died after using J&J's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for more than 35 years.

Talc is a soft mineral that is widely used in personal care products to absorb moisture and for other products including paint and plastics.

Ovarian cancer accounts for about 22,000 of the 1.7 million new cases of cancer likely to be diagnosed in the USA this year.

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