On the heels of Johnson & Johnson’s latest defense verdict in a talc ovarian cancer case in St. Louis City in December 2019 – the fourth consecutive verdict in its favor – comes another study that supports Johnson & Johnson’s long held position. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the article entitled Association of Powder Use in the Genital Area With Risk of Ovarian Cancer found no statistically significant association between the use of powder in the genital area and incident ovarian cancer.

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New Jersey based pharmaceutical, medical and consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson has found itself at the center of national litigation conversation over the last few years due to explosive verdicts rendered against it over allegations that its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and asbestos-related respiratory illnesses. In 2016 and 2017, Johnson & Johnson saw four verdicts in St. Louis ovarian cancer cases alone, with verdicts rendered in favor of the female plaintiffs of approximately $55 million, $70 million, $72 million and $110 million. Perhaps most shocking, however, was a $4.69 billion verdict obtained by twenty-two (22) different women suffering from ovarian cancer. In addition to $550 million in compensatory damages, the jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.14 billion in punitive damages. Despite the trial itself exceeding six weeks, the St. Louis jurors reportedly reached their conclusion and verdict in less than one day. A Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a California woman $417 million in damages in 2017, including $347 million in punitive damages.

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Recently, three asbestos cases, Lege, Chabaud, and Gaddy, have produced significant verdicts in Louisiana. Interestingly, Chabaud, a case of disputed asbestosis, produced the largest reported award for an asbestos personal injury claim in Louisiana history. Below is a brief summary of each of these matters.

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The United States Supreme Court recently amended Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 807, the residual exception to the hearsay rule. These amendments significantly broaden the scope of the exception, which may lead to the admission of more hearsay statements under this rule.

Rule 807 provides for the admission of certain hearsay statements that are not admissible under the enumerated exceptions found in Rules 803 and 804. The previous version of the rule allowed for the admission of an otherwise inadmissible hearsay statement when the proponent could demonstrate that the statement was trustworthy, material, and more probative on the point for which it was offered than any other evidence the proponent could obtain through reasonable efforts, and that the admission of the statement was in the interests of justice.


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On November 26, 2019, in Eileen Riebel, et al. v. 3M Company, et al. (Case No. 2015-L-002124), Cook County Judge Clare E. McWilliams granted a premises defendant’s personal jurisdiction motion in an asbestos matter finding that a contractual relationship between an out-of-state premises defendant and a decedent’s Illinois-based employer, by itself, was not sufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendant and did not meet the requisite minimum contacts with the state.

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In Kardos v. Armstrong Pumps Inc. et al., 2019 PA Super 324, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that where a party is given the opportunity to cross-examine a witness who later becomes unavailable due to his death, such testimony meets the hearsay exception and is admissible evidence.

Decedent Nicholas Kardos was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2016. On March 10, 2016, Mr. Kardos filed a lawsuit against numerous manufacturers, suppliers, and users of asbestos products. In September 2016, Mr. Kardos executed an affidavit related to his work history and exposures to asbestos, after a site visit of a prior worksite. In October 2016, Mr. Kardos was deposed over three days, including cross-examination by defendants regarding his work history and exposures to asbestos containing products. Mr. Kardos passed away on November 3, 2016, before any party re-noticed the deposition.


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Last year, a St. Louis city jury sent shock waves across the world, awarding 22 plaintiffs nearly $5 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims its asbestos-contaminated talcum powder caused ovarian cancer in women who used the company’s product for years in the case of Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC10417 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis City July 12, 2018). Prior to trial, Imerys Talc America Inc., a co-defendant supplier of talc to Johnson & Johnson, settled plaintiffs’ claims for at least $5 million.[1]

While previous ovarian cancer trials hinged on arguments that talc itself is carcinogenic, plaintiffs in Ingham argued their cancer was caused by asbestos particles mixed in with the talc. The impact of this verdict and similar previous decisions across the country has been damaging enough to prompt talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc., to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a lack of financial clout to defend lawsuits alleging that Imerys’ talc caused ovarian cancer or asbestos-related mesothelioma.[2]
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A former laboratory technician at a biopharmaceutical company and his wife were awarded close to $70 million by a Florida state jury over claims he developed mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos-containing products at work. At the end of the two-week trial, the jury found against GEA Mechanical Equipment (“GEA”), an equipment company, for its negligence in distributing the alleged asbestos-containing products and failing to adequately warn plaintiff of the related health hazards.
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The Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Sullivan v. A. W. Chesterton, Inc., et al., No. 18-3622 (E.D. Pa. June 6, 2019), grappled with the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania statutes, 15 Pa.C.S. § 411 and 42 Pa.C.S. § 5301, (the “PA Statutory Scheme”) requiring out-of-state businesses to register in the state, which in turn functions as consent to general jurisdiction. This issue became salient only in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014) (holding corporation is “at home” only where it is incorporated or maintains its principal place of business). The Eastern District held that the PA Statutory Scheme requiring out-of-state corporations to register before they conduct business in the state and thereby consent to general jurisdiction in Pennsylvania offends the Due Process Clause and is unconstitutional.
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In Thomas-Fish v. Aetna Steel Prod. Corp., plaintiff Helen Thomas-Fish alleged her husband Robert Fish had died from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos through his work at a shipbuilding yard in New Jersey in 1960. No. 17-CV-10648 RMB/KMW, 2019 WL 2354555, at *1 (D.N.J. June 4, 2019).  Plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against various defendants including Sonic Industries (“Sonic”), an alleged joiner contractor that installed asbestos-containing paneling during shipbuilding. Sonic was incorporated in California in 1966, six years after the alleged exposure in this case. In addition, Sonic maintained its principal place of business in Connecticut. Accordingly, Sonic was not subject to general jurisdiction in the state of New Jersey. Instead, Plaintiff asserted that Sonic was subject to specific jurisdiction in New Jersey through an unnamed predecessor entity under a successor liability theory. Defendant Sonic filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).

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