The sixth talc trial in St. Louis Circuit Court started as scheduled on June 5, but Circuit Judge Rex Burlison declared a mistrial on June 19 as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court verdict affecting jurisdictional issues.
The Supreme Court ruling involved cases filed in California against pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. over injuries allegedly caused by its blood thinner Plavix. The Supreme Court ruled that state courts are limited in their authority to hear claims against companies that are not based in the state, or when the alleged injuries did not occur there.
Plaintiffs in the latest talc trial represent the estates of three women who died from ovarian cancer following long-term genital applications of talcum powder, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Power and Shower to Shower products.
Plaintiffs include Michael Blaes of Webster Groves, Missouri, whose wife, Shawn Blaes, died of ovarian cancer at age 50. She was a competitive figure skater, coach and co-owner of a skate shop in Webster Groves. She was initially diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
Angela Hershman died at the age of 46 after using talcum powder for more than 29 years. Ms. Hershman was from Grenta, Virginia, and her daughter, Savanna Crews, is pursuing her claims against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys after her mother’s untimely death on April 5, 2016, after her ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Eron Evans died on Jan. 1, 2016, at the age of 41. Her premature death was the direct and proximate result of her more than 30 years of talcum powder use and subsequent ovarian cancer diagnosis. Darlene Evans is pursuing the claims on her daughter’s behalf.
In response to the SCOTUS decision, plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Meadows said, “It’s not the venue that makes it difficult for Johnson & Johnson and Imerys to win these trials, it’s the facts. After reviewing this morning’s Supreme Court ruling, and based on evidence and statements now in the record, we believe this litigation can go forward in Missouri courts. We plan to conduct additional discovery and depositions to confirm this position, and look forward to that opportunity. Our trial team remains confident that the evidence and the science remains on the side of our clients. We’re prepared to file these cases in courts across the nation should that be necessary, and believe that jurors will continue to carefully consider the clear link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.”
The attorneys plan to file motions for a new trial with the Missouri court, noting that the processor and packager of the defendant’s talc-based products is based in the state.
The case is Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 4:14-cv-00213 in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court.