It’s been another extremely busy year for our firm in the talcum powder litigation. You will recall that we tried three of these cases in 2016 with verdicts of $72 million, $55 million and $70 million. In 2017, we tried three cases to verdict, which included one loss, and wins of $110 million and $417 million. Additionally, our lawyers got two weeks into an expected six-week, three-Plaintiff trial when St. Louis trial Judge Rex M. Burlison declared a mistrial because of a new jurisdictional ruling that came out of the U.S. Supreme Court that very June morning.
A few months later our lawyers returned to St. Louis to try one of those three cases, but lost that opportunity on the eve of trial when the Defendants secured a writ of prohibition from the Missouri Supreme Court requesting more briefing on a venue issue. Since then, Judge Burlison has reviewed the $110 million verdict and found it to be appropriate. He also reviewed the jurisdictional question raised by the U.S. Supreme Court and found jurisdiction to be proper in Missouri. This contrasts with a prior finding by the Missouri Court of Appeals that the $72 million dollar verdict should be vacated as a result of the new U.S. Supreme Court jurisdictional law decision. We believe that the Missouri Court of appeals is incorrect and we are appealing that decision. As Judge Burlison recently determined, the facts show that the Defendants have been conducting Johnson’s Baby Powder business in the State of Missouri. Because of its importance to the talc litigation in Missouri, I will write more below on the effect of Judge Burlison’s order on this litigation.
All of the trial activity over the last two years has now brought this litigation to the point where appellate courts have started to and will continue to weigh in on various issues that could impact the litigation going forward. In 2018, we expect a ruling out of the Missouri Supreme Court that will allow us to proceed with the trial that was twice stalled in 2017.
We also expect the New Jersey Court of Appeals will overturn the 2016 trial Judge finding that our experts did not provide adequate evidence of causation. A similar ruling by the same trial Judge in a different litigation has already been overturned by the New Jersey Court of Appeals and is now on appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. We also expect that California Appellate Courts will begin reviewing the $417 million jury verdict that was overturned by the trial judge – we expect a reversal there as well.
In addition to all the appellate activity, trials should resume in St. Louis by summer of 2018 when Judge Burlison is expected to try at least two multi-Plaintiff trials. As our lawyers prepare for additional trials, they are also busy working with 37 new expert witnesses who were recently identified in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) as witnesses for the Plaintiffs. Part of those efforts will include taking dozens of depositions of executive, employees and scientists who worked for the Defendants over the years.
One of the biggest things to happen in this litigation, to date, was discovered on the eve of trial this summer when one of our clients informed us that she had just discovered a body powder product in a drug store that carried an ovarian cancer warning. Further investigation by our lawyers revealed that Walmart and Dollar Tree now sell body powders that carry these needed warnings. These are products that compete with Johnson’s Baby Powder. The warning appears to have been started following the verdicts we got in 2016. This is further proof that our civil justice system can bring about change that makes all of us safer.
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