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January Status Conference Set for NJ Talc MCL

CourthouseA January status conference has been scheduled to discuss the next steps in the talcum powder lawsuits currently pending in New Jersey state court. Judges Julio L. Mendez and Nelson C. Johnson of Atlantic County are expected to review the organizational structure of the multicounty litigation and provide status updates on discovery.

A minimum of 65 plaintiffs have joined together under the MCL, claiming Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products failed to include adequate warnings about ovarian cancer risks. Many women use these products as a way to absorb moisture and reduce friction to keep the skin dry and help prevent rashes from developing.

Talc is commonly used in cosmetic products — including baby powder — but some forms contain asbestos in their natural state, which can cause cancer in and around the lungs just by inhaling it. While talcum-containing products in the U.S. have been void of asbestos since the 1970’s, it is still linked to cancer. People who are exposed to it long-term at work have a higher risk of developing lung cancer from inhaling these fumes and women who frequently apply talcum powder to their genital area are also at a high risk.

Talcum powder lawsuits consolidated

As of Nov. 25, the New Jersey Supreme Court has consolidated all talc powder lawsuits in the state into multicounty litigation. This helps to reduce duplicate discovery, conserves the resources of all parties and eliminates conflicting pretrial rulings.

On Nov. 20, Judge Johnson issued a case management order, stating that all lawyers involved in the MCL must attend an on-the-record, in-person case management conference on Jan. 13, 2015 at 10 a.m.

It is very likely at that a schedule will be implemented for discovery that applies to all claims. A bellwether program may also be established, where a small representative group of plaintiffs are chosen to participate in case-specific discovery that will be prepared for early trial dates.

Bellwether trial outcomes are not binding on other cases, but they serve as a way to help both parties gauge jury reaction to evidence and testimony that will likely be shared by many plaintiffs. This process may help both sides agree to a settlement, but if not, the cases will be remanded back to their original courts for separate trials.

J&J stands behind safety of its products

Johnson & Johnson continues to insist that all of its products are safe.

“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers who rely on our products,” the company said in a statement. “It is important for consumers to know that the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence and independent peer-reviewed studies.”

Johnson & Johnson claims that statistical association between the use of talc and ovarian cancer are unconvincing and may stem from a bias in the methodology of the study. According to the company, a causal link isn’t biologically plausible, as no evidence exists that particles of talc can move through the genital tract to the ovaries or that they could even lead to malignant growths if they made it there. Consequently, they claim it isn’t necessary to issue a warning to consumers, as no causal link exists.

  1. American Cancer Society, Talcum Powder and Cancer
  2. New Jersey Courts, Case Management Order No. 1
  3. New Jersey Courts, Application for Centralized Management of Certain Cases Involving Talc Based Products
  4. Salon, “Why Aren’t They Warning Women About It?” The Toxic Danger in Your Baby Powder