David v. Goliath, Mississippi style

From Mississippi Today

There’s a Mississippi connection to the latest jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson over its talc products: Ridgeland attorney R. Allen Smith is the David going against the health care products giant.

On Monday, a St. Louis, Mo., jury ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $55 million to a woman who claimed use of their talc products caused her ovarian cancer.

That follows a Feb. 24 verdict, also in St. Louis, that Johnson  & Johnson should pay $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman, Jacqueline Fox, who died from ovarian cancer just months before the trial.

Those cases are just two of more than 1,200 lawsuits pending against the company and led by Smith. More on Monday’s verdict.

Both verdicts included punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson, aimed at punishing the corporation for its failure to tell consumers about the dangers of talc and to serve as a warning moving ahead.

Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the verdicts.

“The ball is in their court,” Smith, 45, said recently from his modest office, where he practices solo as The Smith Law Firm.

“We’re going to move on to the next case unless they want to settle,” the Mississippi College Law School graduate noted. Three more of his related cases are docketed from July to September.

In an emailed statement after the February verdict, J&J spokesman Carol Goodrich told BloombergBusiness, “We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers and we’re disappointed with the outcome of the trial.

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J&J Faces 1,000 More Talc-Cancer Suits After Verdict Loss

by Margaret Cronin Fisk, Tim Bross and Jef Feeley

From Bloomberg

Johnson & Johnson must pay $55 million to a 62-year-old South Dakota woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talcum powder in the second such trial loss this year.

J&J is accused in more than 1,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts of ignoring studies linking its Shower-to-Shower product and Johnson’s Baby Powder to ovarian cancer. Women contend the company knew the risk and failed to warn customers. In February, J&J lost a $72 million verdict in the same St. Louis courthouse to the family of a woman who died of the disease.

“The more talc verdicts that come down against them adds to the public’s growing distrust of their baby powder, which is one of their iconic products,” said Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia. “There are both economic and reputational issues that may motivate them to start thinking about a global settlement of these cases.”

J&J should consider setting up a settlement program to dispose of the talc cases, said Tobias, who isn’t involved in the case.

State court jurors Monday awarded $5 million in compensation and $50 million in punitive damages to Gloria Ristesund, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 after using J&J’s talc-based feminine hygiene products for almost 40 years. Ristesund’s cancer, after she underwent a hysterectomy, is in remission.

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