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Judge Tosses J&J Talc Suit in New Jersey

female judge holding a gavel

A California woman who claimed Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers about alleged health risks from talc-based products like Baby Powder had her class-action suit against the company tossed by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson said in an opinion Friday, July 14 that plaintiff Mona Estrada lacked standing to file the claim because she didn’t suffer “an injury-in-fact.”

“Because Plaintiff does not have standing to bring the present action, the [First Amended Class Action Complaint] must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” Wolfson, a New Jersey-based judge, said in a 32-page opinion.

Wolfson is also overseeing a multidistrict litigation — a consolidated docket of cases— of complaints against J&J claiming talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.

In her ruling, Wolfson gave Estrada the option of amending her complaint against the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company within 30 days.

Woman Used Powder for 63 Years

Estrada of Stockton, California originally filed suit against Johnson & Johnson in her home state in 2014. In her suit, which was later moved to New Jersey, she said she used J&J’s Baby Powder from 1950 to 2013.

“Plaintiff purchased the product believing it was safe to use on any external area of her body. Had Plaintiff known the truth about the safety of using Johnson’s® Baby Powder, she would not have purchased the product,” her complaint said. As a result of her purchase, Plaintiff suffered injury in fact and lost money. Plaintiff is not claiming physical harm or seeking the recovery of personal injury damages.”

Estrada and other plaintiffs claim J&J knew of an alleged ovarian-cancer link from talcum powder products for decades but didn’t inform consumers to protect sales. Johnson & Johnson says Baby Powder is safe.

N.J. Judge Tossed Lawsuits in 2016

This isn’t the first time a judge in New Jersey ruled against a plaintiff in a talc lawsuit. In September 2016, Judge Nelson Johnson in Atlantic City tossed suits from two women who blamed J&J’s talcum powder for their ovarian cancers.

Johnson said Brandi Carl’s and Diana Balderrama’s talc suits didn’t show enough evidence of an alleged cancer link, reports say. The judge rejected testimony from plaintiff’s witnesses Dr. Graham Colditz, a Washington University epidemiologist, and Daniel Cramer of Harvard University. Cramer, who heads the Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, first uncovered an alleged link between genital talc and cancer in 1982. He has lobbied unsuccessfully for many years to get warning labels on talc products.

Juries in St. Louis Sided with Plaintiffs

Meanwhile, plaintiffs in Missouri have racked up four major courtroom victories against Johnson & Johnson. Juries in St. Louis have awarded a combined total of $307 million in verdicts in four cases. In another St. Louis case, J&J won. A judge in Missouri declared a mistrial in another talc case in June.

That decision followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case that placed restrictions on where lawsuits can be filed against corporations. Justices said such suits should be filed in the state in which the company is based or the location where the alleged harm occurred.

It affected the Missouri case because it involved two out-of-state plaintiffs and one Missouri plaintiff.

More than 1,000 other cases are pending in Missouri. Roughly 350 cases are pending in New Jersey and two other states — California and Delaware.

Last modified: July 19, 2017

Author

Kevin Connolly joined Drugwatch as managing editor after 20 years in newspapers, mainly the Orlando Sentinel. He is a watchdog at Drugwatch, where pharmaceutical companies hawking dangerous drugs and device manufacturers selling defective medical products are held accountable. He is a member of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals, the Drug Information Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Hide Sources

  1. Cohen, Ronnie. (2016, March 3). Genital talc boosts ovarian cancer risk in study. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-talc-cancer-idUSKCN0W52R1
  2. Graf, Rachel. (2017, July 17) J&J Escapes Suit Over Talc-Based Baby Powder. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/944549/j-j-escapes-suit-over-talc-based-baby-powder
  3. HarrisMartin Publishing. (2017, July 17). Talc MDL Court Dismisses Putative Class Action, Says Plaintiffs Haven’t Established Injury-in-Fact, But Allows Leave to Amend. Retrieved from https://harrismartin.com/article/22500/talc-mdl-court-dismisses-putative-class-action-says-plaintiffs-havent-established-injury-in-fact-but-allows-leave-to-amend/
  4. Mona Estrada vs. Johnson & Johnson. (2014, April 28) U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California.
  5. Mona Estrada vs. Johnson & Johnson. (2017, July 14) U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
  6. Feely, Jef. (2016, September 2). J&J Wins Dismissal of Two New Jersey Talc Cancer Lawsuits. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-02/j-j-wins-dismissal-of-new-jersey-talc-cancer-lawsuits.
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