Most expert testimony to be allowed in J&J talc litigation

Does Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder contain asbestos? If it does, has exposure to that asbestos caused ovarian cancer?

The answers to those two questions will depend largely on the testimony of experts. However, J&J argued that none of the plaintiffs’ experts should be allowed to testify in an upcoming bellwether trial on the subject.

Over 16,000 people have sued J&J regarding its baby powder and other talc-based products such as Shower-to-Shower. The plaintiffs claim that J&J’s talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral, has been contaminated by asbestos, another mineral found in similar soil and locations. They also claim this contamination caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Many of the lawsuits have been consolidated before a single federal court in New Jersey, where J&J is headquartered. A handful of the cases will be tried before the rest as essentially test cases to weigh the strength of the claims.

Bellwether case will include plaintiffs’ experts

Had J&J succeeded in keeping all plaintiff experts from testifying, it might have wiped out any cases relying on that expert testimony. However, the federal judge overseeing this consolidated litigation ruled that at least some of the expert testimony will be allowed.

The judge will allow, for example, an expert presentation that epidemiological studies show a link between J&J’s talc products and ovarian cancer. Further, an expert will be allowed to testify this epidemiological link could be caused by asbestos or heavy metal contamination in the talc. And, experts can say that talc can reach the ovaries when applied vaginally.

The judge will not allow experts to testify that inhaled talc can travel to the ovaries.

A statement by J&J expressed that this ruling is not a determination of the validity of the plaintiffs’ overall claims. It reiterated its position that numerous studies have shown its talc to be uncontaminated by asbestos. Finally, it pointed out that it has so far won the talc cases it has appealed.

It has not been so successful at the trial level. Several other cases have already been tried, including one case in which 22 plaintiffs were awarded a record $4.69 billion. J&J is appealing.

J&J is also being criminally investigated over its representations of the safety of its talc products.

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