Daubert hearings involving eight days of expert testimony over whether Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders contain the carcinogen asbestos and cause ovarian cancer have concluded. The outcome of the hearings will determine whether the 12,000 federal lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson are credible enough to go to trial. Those lawsuits are currently in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson. She is holding her decision until after each party submits written statements up to 80 pages within 45 days after transcripts of the hearings come available.
During the Daubert hearings, plaintiffs presented five experts to Johnson & Johnson’s three. Among those called by the plaintiffs was Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, a gynecologic oncologist and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Beasley Allen attorney Leigh O’Dell, who is serving as Co-Lead Counsel for the MDL, began the line of direct questioning by establishing Clarke-Pearson’s experience, which includes publishing more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, writing dozens of medical textbook chapters, and editing three medical textbooks. He said he performed a Bradford Hill analysis (criteria to provide epidemiologic evidence of presumed cause and observed effect) and a “systemic review of the relevant literature, including peer-reviewed papers, original research, case-controlled studies, meta-analysis studies and systemic analyses.”
Clarke-Pearson concluded that “the use of talcum powder products, including those manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, when applied to the female perineum, is a causative factor in the development of epithelial ovarian cancer,” and put women who used talc in this fashion at an overall increased risk of developing ovarian cancer at between 20% and 60%.
The hearings come as lawsuits in other jurisdictions have resulted in multimillion-dollar verdicts for plaintiffs with staggering punitive awards. Among them is a $4.69 billion verdict, which included $4.14 billion in punitive damages, awarded to 22 women who claimed Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer. That was the first time damages were awarded to plaintiffs who alleged asbestos-contaminated talc was the culprit in their deadly disease.