J&J Wins Dismissal of Talc Cases, No Link to Missouri

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By Julie A. Steinberg

Johnson & Johnson won dismissal of some 79 suits by non-Missouri residents who sued in Missouri alleging they developed ovarian cancer caused by talcum powder ( Jinright v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc. , 2017 BL 304776, E.D. Mo., No. 17-1849, 8/30/17 ).

The plaintiffs didn’t show a link between their claims and the defendants’ contacts to Missouri, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri said Aug. 30.

Therefore, the court said, it lacked jurisdiction, or authority, over their claims.

The court dismissed the non-residents’ claims without prejudice, and denied the plaintiffs’ motion to send the suit back to the Missouri Circuit Court for St. Louis City, where it had been filed originally.

Talc verdicts from the St. Louis court against J&J have totaled more than $300 million. The company has appealed.

The federal court here applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 19 Bristol-Myers Squibb decision, which said a nexus must exist between a plaintiff’s claim and the state where suit is brought.

The plaintiffs argued the matter should be remanded to state court for additional discovery on connections to Missouri that could support jurisdiction there.

They said there is evidence raw talc is sent with a Material Safety Data Sheet warning of the risk of ovarian cancer, to Pharma Tech Industries in Union, Mo.

There, at the direction of Johnson & Johnson, the warning is cast aside and the talc is processed, bottled and labeled without warning, creating the defect in Missouri, the plaintiffs alleged.

But the court said this evidence wouldn’t establish the necessary connection with Missouri.

In Bristol Myers, the Supreme Court said a drugmaker’s contract with a California distributor wasn’t enough to support jurisdiction over nonresidents’ claims.

Similarly, the plaintiffs here have shown only a connection between J&J and a third-party in Missouri, the court said.

Onder & Shelton, LLC represents the plaintiffs.

Hepler Broom represents Johnson & Johnson.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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