J&J Wins Reversal of First St. Louis Talc-Cancer Verdict

Oct. 17, 2017
Missouri appeals court found the case shouldn’t have been tried in a St. Louis city court.

Johnson & Johnson won its appeal of a $72 million verdict claiming its talc products cause ovarian cancer, as a Missouri appeals court found the case shouldn’t have been tried in a St. Louis city court.

The verdict to the family of Jacqueline Fox, who died in 2015, was the first of a series of jury awards in the St. Louis court. The juries there have awarded a total of $300 million in verdicts over the talc claims.

The appeals court decision endangers the other Missouri verdicts against J&J as well as hundreds of talc actions filed in the St. Louis court against the company.

The appeals court followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June limiting out-of-state plaintiffs from combining actions in a lower court. 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.

Under the new standard, “a non-resident plaintiff must establish an independent basis for specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant in the state,” the appellate court said. Fox didn’t meet that standard.

Non-resident plaintiffs with ovarian cancer talc claims had been flocking to the St. Louis court, with complaints filed combining dozens of cases. Under the state rules, only one plaintiff had to be a St. Louis resident. The Bristol-Myers ruling changes how those cases will be treated.

Johnson & Johnson is “pleased” with the appeals court decision, Carol Goodrich, company spokeswoman, said..

The plaintiff’s lawyers sought to tie a Missouri distributor to the case to establish jurisdiction. The appeals court rejected the request, vacating the verdict.

By Margaret Cronin Fisk

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