The Missouri Supreme Court canceled all April arguments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 16. But this didn’t keep the Eastern District Court of Appeals in St. Louis from scheduling an April 24 oral argument hearing in Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of a $4.69 billion verdict involving claims that its baby powder was tainted with asbestos and caused a group of women to develop ovarian cancer.

In order to limit the number of people in the courtroom and limit any risk of virus exposure, only two lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and two for the women will be allowed in the courtroom. Their opening arguments will be live streamed on the court’s Facebook page as well as recorded and posted on YouTube.

Both Johnson & Johnson and the women will get 30 minutes for their opening arguments. Johnson & Johnson will get six minutes for rebuttal.

The plaintiffs number 29 in total and include not just the 22 women who claim they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder on their genitals for feminine hygiene, but also several of their husbands, as well as representatives of women who are now deceased. In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded the group the jaw-dropping multi-billion-dollar verdict after finding that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary J&J Consumer Inc. were responsible for the women’s injuries.

The jury slapped Johnson & Johnson with $550 million in compensatory damages and an additional $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

The trial was noteworthy because it was the first time in a talc-ovarian cancer trial that plaintiffs alleged Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing baby powder was contaminated with asbestos. Previous trials had blamed impurities in talc for causing ovarian cancer. Others had blamed asbestos in talc for causing mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Beasley Allen has been privileged to represent thousands of women who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder on their genitals for feminine hygiene.

Leigh O’Dell, who serves as the co-lead counsel representing plaintiffs in the federal ovarian cancer multidistrict litigation, has implored U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) officials to update testing protocols to utilize transmission electron microscopy and other more accurate and sensitive tests that can better detect microscopic asbestos fibers in cosmetic talc as well as similar carcinogens. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, but fibrous talc “is a deleterious, cancer-causing elongated mineral that should be included in all testing protocols,” she said.

The firm continues to investigate these cases. For information, contact Ted Meadows, who heads up Beasley Allen’s Talc Litigation team, or Leigh O’Dell.

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