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In a blow to Johnson & Johnson, a federal judge has ruled that the talc lawsuits may continue after approval of the expert witnesses in the case.

J&J faces more than 16,000-talc related lawsuits nationwide, the majority of which are pending before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey. The lawsuits allege that the company’s talc products have been contaminated with asbestos and can cause ovarian cancer.

The company had sought to bar all of the plaintiffs’ experts from testifying, which would have effectively wiped out all the cases before Wolfson.

The ruling by Wolfson will allow plaintiffs to present expert testimony that talc could be contaminated with asbestos, but prevents them from presenting expert testimony that talc itself causes cancer.

Johnson & Johnson had contended that such claims were based on junk science and should be disallowed.

According to the NY Times, “The ruling by Wolfson will allow plaintiffs to present expert testimony that J&J’s talc products can cause cancer based on epidemiological studies. They will be allowed to testify that the link could be caused by contamination with asbestos and heavy metals.

Wolfson also ruled that the plaintiffs’ experts cannot testify that inhaling talc can travel to the ovaries if inhaled, though they may say that it can reach the ovaries when used vaginally.

In so-called multidistrict litigations like the one before Wolfson, in which thousands of lawsuits are consolidated, a handful of cases are designated for early “bellwether” trials, which can help determine the strength of each side’s case and aid in settlement. Testimony in such cases typically relies heavily on experts.”

In addition to civil litigation, Johnson & Johnson faces a federal criminal probe concerning allegations that the company hid the dangers of their product from the general public.  Some civil lawsuits have already settled with large verdicts against J&J.  One such case produced a record $4.69 billion talc verdict against J&J in July 2018. The company is appealing the verdict.


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