The first trial stemming from a California talcum powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was set to begin Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 63-year-old plaintiff Eva Echeverria, who alleges that regular and repeated feminine hygiene use of J&J talcum powder products caused her to develop ovarian cancer.
Echeverria’s attorneys argued in January that hers should be the first of more than 300 California talcum powder claims against J&J to go to trial because her doctors had given her a prognosis of six months to live. That month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson set trial for July 10.
Details from First Day of J&J Talc Trial
The case is in the final pre-trial stages, but the trial has not technically begun. On what was supposed to be the first day of trial, Judge Nelson issued a final ruling to dismiss defendant Imerys from the case. Imerys is J&J’s talc supplier.
The ruling was a change in course for Judge Nelson, who last week wrote in a tentative ruling that she would deny Imerys’ Talc’s motion for summary judgment on Echeverria’s allegations. However, in her final ruling on Monday, she determined that her prior tentative ruling was wrong in parts, and that talc was an “inherently safe product,” thus removing Imerys Talc from liability in the case.
Judge Nelson also tentatively denied J&J’s motion to remove Echeverria’s expert witnesses from testifying in the case that talc can cause cancer generally. One of the witnesses, toxicology and pharmacology expert Laura Plunkett, previously provided testimony for plaintiffs in talcum powder cases in Missouri, where juries have awarded more than $300 million to plaintiffs making similar allegations.
J&J filed a similar motion to remove two of Echeverria’s other experts – Harvard epidemiologist Daniel Cramer and University of Southern California gynecology professor Annie Yessaian. Judge Nelson tentatively denied that motion in part but did rule to exclude Mr. Cramer’s specific causation testimony. More will be heard on the matter from both parties when the case resumes on Monday.
Johnson & Johnson Faces Hundreds of Talcum Powder Claims in California
Although the Echeverria trial is a preference case, it will provide insight into how juries may decide similar cases moving forward. More than 300 talcum powder lawsuits filed against J&J are currently pending in California.
The case is also the first to convene outside of St. Louis, Missouri Circuit Court, where most of the talc litigation was centered. Thus far, only one St. Louis jury has sided with J&J. Juries in four other cases have returned verdicts for plaintiffs worth $110 million, $72 million, and $55 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
As of this writing, J&J is defending itself in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in courts throughout the U.S. All of the lawsuits claim that since the 1970s, J&J has been aware of research linking feminine hygiene use of talcum powder to ovarian cancer. The lawsuits further allege that J&J failed to warn consumers about the cancer risk in an effort to protect profits generated by its line of baby powder products.