The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created a consolidated federal docket for baby powder cancer claims. The creation of a baby powder MDL was highly contested by both sides of the litigation, but the JPML granted MDL status because it “will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.”
Johnson & Johnson (J&J), facing thousands of talcum powder lawsuits, is headquartered in New Jersey, making the state a prime location for the baby powder MDL. While J&J had past success in it’s home state when a New Jersey judge dismissed several lawsuits, the creation of the MDL will complicate things.
In addition to thousands of cases filed in both state and federal courts around the country, the creation of the MDL will likely cause the number of lawsuits to skyrocket. In addition to the New Jersey MDL, California state court cases will also be coordinated to facilitate a quicker resolution of claims.
The number of talc lawsuits could potentially reach into the tens of thousands for J&J who has not been successful in jury trials so far. To date, three cases have gone to trial – in all three trials, J&J was found negligent and in two trials, the plaintiffs won multimillion-dollar awards.
Although the company stated it plans to fight the lawsuits, it might change its mind after the conclusion of the conclusion of the fourth baby powder trial currently underway in St. Louis. J&J could see another multimillion-dollar award and subsequently have to face off against several more plaintiffs in 2017.
For J&J, the damage has already been done. In the court of public opinion, consumers are shocked by how aggressively the company has defended baby powder cancer claims. The company’s brand image is suffering terribly in the wake of the talc lawsuits, but it seems more concerned with avoiding large payouts. For many consumers, the choice to ditch J&J products is easy one.