Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson reached new highs in 2019 as consumers continued to allege that prolonged exposure to the company’s talcum powder products caused cancer.
Johnson & Johnson faced 14,435 talcum powder lawsuits as of November 2019, making it the second-largest federal mass litigation in the United States that month.
Meanwhile, proton pump inhibitor lawsuits ran a close third
Litigation involving Xarelto, a prescription blood thinner, remained the largest federal mass litigation in the U.S. for the second consecutive year with 27,596 lawsuits pending as of November 2019. Drugmakers agreed to a $775 million Xarelto settlement in March 2019.
These lawsuits are part of multidistrict litigations, or MDLs. An increasingly popular tool in the U.S. legal landscape, an MDL helps streamline the legal pretrial process by combining several similar lawsuits.
Each month, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation publishes an MDL statistics report. According to the panel’s November 2019 report, 133,984 lawsuits were pending as part of 190 MDLs.
The number of pending federal talcum powder lawsuits increased nearly 40 percent in less than a year, from 10,430 cases in January 2019 to 14,435 in November 2019.
The lawsuits allege that popular products — including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder — were contaminated with asbestos, a cancer-causing mineral.
Consumers claim that routine use of these products caused them to develop mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. They also allege that Johnson & Johnson knew the potential harm of these products and did nothing to warn consumers about risks.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created the talcum powder MDL and transferred the cases to a federal court in New Jersey in October 2016.
While no trial has taken place as part of the MDL, lawsuits filed in state courts have resulted in mixed jury verdicts. In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson saw its seventh jury trial win. The company’s victory came just weeks after two juries had awarded consumers a combined $77.3 million.
From January 2019 to November 2019, the total number of proton pump inhibitor lawsuits included in the MDL more than doubled from 5,355 to 14,803.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created the proton pump inhibitor MDL in August 2017 and centralized the cases in federal court in New Jersey.
By mid-2019, it was the second-largest MDL in the United States until the talcum powder litigation took its place later that year.
While growth slowed slightly from August 2019 to November 2019, with just a 3.3 percent increase of pending cases in federal court, more cases may still be filed.
Proton pump inhibitors are used to treat frequent heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach ulcers and conditions that cause too much stomach acid.
Studies, including one published in the Indian Journal of Nephrology, suggest that long-term use of these medications can cause serious complications.
People have filed PPI lawsuits alleging major kidney issues after taking the acid-reducing medicines.
Lawsuits name PPI brands including Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. Current cases involve both prescription and over-the-counter versions of these medications.
The first trial in this MDL is set for September 2020. The result could influence settlement negotiations.
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