A New Jersey federal court has detailed the responsibilities of the special master who will oversee discovery in multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products. As special master, retired U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano will resolve all disputes related to discovery in the MDL accusing Johnson & Johnson of personal injury or wrongful death over the side effects of its talcum powder products, according to an order by U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, who is overseeing the litigation. The cases involve claims that the talc products cause ovarian cancer.
Judge Wolfson had appointed Judge Pisano special master in August. The order outlining the responsivities of the special master stated:
The special master shall proceed with all reasonable diligence to resolve all discovery disputes in any case in the above-captioned MDL proceeding that are referred to the special master by the court.
The suits were centralized by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in October. The common questions among the cases are whether the talc-based powders cause ovarian or uterine cancer, whether the company knew or should have known about that correlation, and whether it did enough to warn users.
Judge Pisano retired from the judiciary in 2015 after more than two decades on the federal bench. Pisano was appointed a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey in 1991, and appointed U.S. District Judge in 2000 by former President Bill Clinton. He has since returned to private practice and currently works as counsel with Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga LLP. During his judicial career, Judge Pisano oversaw a range of civil and criminal cases including multidistrict litigation over Merck’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax and a real estate investment Ponzi scheme. The court, when appointing Judge Pisano in August, said:
The court commented that Judge Pisano is well-qualified because he has, in the past, sat as an MDL judge, that he has a background as a magistrate judge, and that he served numerous years as a district judge.
The Plaintiffs are represented by co-lead counsel P. Leigh O’Dell of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC and Michelle A. Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel LLP, among others. The MDL is In re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices And Products Liability Litigation, (case number 3:16-md-02738) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.