J&J Seeking Dismissal of Talc Lawsuits in Missouri

By Jonathan D. Rockoff Features Dow Jones Newswires

Johnson & Johnson is asking judges in St. Louis to throw out personal-injury lawsuits over its talcum powder, a sign of the immediate impact of this week's Supreme Court's ruling limiting where suits could be filed.

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Already one Missouri state-court judge has declared a mistrial in one of the talcum-powder lawsuits against J&J because of the Supreme Court decision. The company has also asked, or will ask, judges in St. Louis to throw out a handful of verdicts under appeal and to place on hold other cases that the company says should be thrown out.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that California courts could hear only claims that Californians filed against Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. alleging its Plavix blood-thinner raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Many of the plaintiffs in that suit weren't California residents.

Companies beyond the drug industry had been looking to the Supreme Court to stop trial lawyers from filing personal-injury lawsuits in courts that might be more sympathetic to the claims, even though the plaintiffs weren't from the state where the court sits. In the J&J cases, many out-of-state plaintiffs have joined lawsuits filed in Missouri, the company says, including two of the three plaintiffs in the case that just ended in mistrial.

"In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling makes it clear that Johnson & Johnson was wrongfully forced to defend itself in multiple trials in Missouri, a state with no connection to the plaintiffs," the company said in a statement.

Ted Meadows, one of the lead trial lawyers for talc plaintiffs in Missouri and other courts, expressed confidence the cases could go forward despite the Supreme Court's ruling.

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"Based on evidence and statements now in the record, we believe this litigation can go forward in Missouri courts. We plan to conduct additional discovery and depositions to confirm this position, and look forward to that opportunity," Mr. Meadows said in a statement.

J&J will likely ask judges in other states and federal courts to throw out cases involving out-of-state plaintiffs.

Nearly 1,000 lawsuits are pending against J&J in federal and state courts alleging that Johnson's Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer and the company failed to warn about the risks, according to the company's latest court filing.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., says that talcum powder is safe and the labeling on Johnson's Baby Powder was appropriate, while also asking Missouri judges to throw out cases involving out-of-state plaintiffs.

The company has won one trial in St. Louis but lost three others, which led to verdicts totaling more than $194 million that J&J has appealed.

Write to Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 21, 2017 13:45 ET (17:45 GMT)