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Johnson & Johnson’s Recent Litigation Trends in Talcum Powder Lawsuits

In Blinkinsop v. Albertson Co., a California jury unanimously ruled that Johnson & Johnson baby powder does not contain asbestos and did not cause the plaintiff’s mesothelioma. See Blinkinsop v. Albertson Co., BC677764, Superior Court, Los Angeles Co. (Long Beach). The plaintiff, Robert Blinkinsop, used Johnson’s baby powder daily from 1977 to 1994, and on his children from 1992 to 1996. He also used Johnson’s Shower to Shower. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2017. He alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s products caused his asbestos-related disease, but the jury disagreed.

Johnson & Johnson has faced thousands of lawsuits nationally relating to its talc based products. So far, its trial record has been mixed. The first talcum powder lawsuit was filed in 2009 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There, Diane Berg alleged that the Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused her ovarian cancer. Although the jury agreed, she was not awarded monetary compensation for her damages. In 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. As in Blinkinsop, plaintiffs nationally are also alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products can cause mesothelioma. In March 2019, a California jury awarded $29 million to a plaintiff who alleged that Johnson & Johnson talc based products caused her mesothelioma. That same month, Johnson & Johnson won a defense verdict in a New Jersey trial, where a plaintiff claimed his mesothelioma was caused by the company’s talc products.

Many of these verdicts include awards against Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier, Imerys America which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2018 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. Shortly thereafter, Johnson & Johnson removed the claims against it in over 2,000 state court actions pursuant to Bankruptcy Rule 9027 and 28 U.S.C.  §§ 1334 and 1452. In relevant part, 28 U.S.C.  §§ 1334(b) states: “…the district courts shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction of all civil proceedings arising under title 11, or arising in or related to cases under title 11.”

Johnson & Johnson also filed its Motion to Fix Venue for Claims Related to Imerys’s Bankruptcy Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 157(b)(5) and 1334(b) in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. According to 28 U.S.C. §§ 157(b)(5): “the district court shall order that personal injury tort and wrongful death claims shall be tried in the district court in which the bankruptcy case is pending, or in the district court in the district in which the claim arose, as determined by the district court in which the bankruptcy case is pending.”

Presently, the determination of proper venue is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware’s decision regarding Johnson & Johnson’s motion.