A great deal has happened in the Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer litigation since Johnson and Johnson was hit with a $417 million verdict in August. Our trial team returned from that California court and immediately resumed preparations to restart the Blaes trial that was set for October 16. Unfortunately, the defendants were successful in getting the Missouri Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Prohibition to keep the trial from going forward. This occurred on the Friday night before the trial was set to start on Monday. Our trial team was already in St Louis and was ready to proceed. Suffice it to say, the Writ will keep us from going forward with that trial until a venue issue is briefed and resolved at the appellate level. This may take a few months.
In other news, just days after this Writ was issued the Missouri Court of Appeals “reversed and vacated” the Fox verdict. You will recall this was the first verdict we got in Missouri – it involved the claims of Alabama native Jacqueline Fox who used Baby Powder for decades and ultimately died of ovarian cancer. A St. Louis jury agreed with her allegations and the supporting evidence and returned a verdict against Johnson and Johnson in the amount of $72 million dollars. That verdict was returned in February of 2016 and it has since been on appeal. The ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals is based on the recent US Supreme Court BMS opinion establishing new rules for determining whether out of state claimants can maintain a lawsuit in a different state. The Missouri Court of Appeals says the Fox case should not have been filed in Missouri and therefore “reversed and vacated” the judgment.
We believe this court was incorrect and we are in the process of appealing to the Missouri Supreme Court. Not only was jurisdiction proper under the existing rules at the time of filing the suit and at the time of the verdict. We now know that the defendants in the case had been engaged in activities within the state of Missouri that comply with the new rules established under BMS – namely, the defendants have been contracted with a Missouri corporation to receive the talc from the supplier, Imerys, and thereafter bottle, package and label the body powder.
Just days later the California trial judge overseeing the Ecchevarria case issued post trial rulings reversing the $417 million verdict on grounds that it was excessive, a product of improper rulings on her part, and jury misconduct. Suffice it to say, this is highly unusual and we are told that the local lawyer handling the case will appeal this decision.
As you can see, we have reached the point in this litigation where jury verdicts are being scrutinized by trial courts and appellate courts. This is all part of the process, but this litigation is far from over. Expect more appellate rulings and more jury verdicts from California, Missouri and other states. While we are not likely to win all the preliminary battles, the science, facts and law are on the side of the brave women we represent and we fully expect the truth will prevail and we will ultimately win the war. Stay tuned.
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