Posts Tagged ‘product liability’

“Science Favors J&J in Talcum Powder Lawsuits”

For years lawyers have been suing Johnson & Johnson claiming that its baby powder has caused ovarian cancer, a theory that has mostly met with failure in court. This summer, however, a St. Louis jury found liability and ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion, on a related theory that asbestos contaminants in the product (as opposed to talc itself) caused the disease. On December 14 Reuters followed with a lengthy piece laying out, and implicitly siding with, the plaintiff lawyers’ accusations; the piece drew wide publicity, and the company’s shares sank by about $50 billion. Some analysts have written that J&J’s lawsuit payouts on the issue could reach $20 billion.

Now a leading business columnist has explained why he doubts that outcome. “Why? Because whether or not the company’s talcum powder contains asbestos, and whether or not it hid that fact from the public, the science remains firmly on J&J’s side.” [Joe Nocera, Bloomberg] How so? “There is no evidence that women who use talcum powder are any more likely to get ovarian cancer than women who don’t. In both California and New Jersey, judges have tossed out cases on exactly this basis.” So while plaintiffs make the most of their dark imputations of a cover-up, what they haven’t shown is that women who used the baby powder are any more likely to contract cancer than those who did not. Nocera: “And this is one mass tort where I’m convinced the science is going to win.”

Meanwhile, Mark Lanier, the Texas-based lawyer who won the St. Louis verdict, freely agrees that his efforts have helped affect J&J’s stock price. “It serves my purposes as a litigator to say, ‘Yes, get their attention; keep driving the stock down.'” [Matthew J. Belvedere, CNBC] And: “New York’s specialized court for asbestos lawsuits could become a pivotal battleground for litigation over talcum powder as plaintiff lawyers seek to establish a record of wins in a court system known for liberal rules and big jury verdicts.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]

“Needless to say, the film-makers employed no such editing maneuvers during the interviews of the plaintiff litigation team.”

Defense lawyer Stephen McConnell reviews the shame-on-business documentary The Bleeding Edge. There were few surprises: “We had been fully warned that the film was a thoroughly one-sided screed against the medical device industry….We also hear from ubiquitous plaintiff expert David Kessler, a former head of the FDA.” And see: our coverage back when of other one-sided documentaries including “The Hunting Ground” (college sexual assault), “Super Size Me,” the one on the (fraud-riddled) banana pesticide litigation, and above all the trial-lawyer-backed “Hot Coffee” (much more on which).

Liability roundup

Pharmaceutical roundup

  • What if law firms advertising about drugs had to live with the same set of rules as drug firms advertising about drugs? [Beck, Drug and Device Law]
  • Jury: no injury damages for testosterone-gel plaintiff, but lawyer got us upset at AbbVie so here’s $150 million anyway [Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune]
  • “Plaintiff’s design defect claim was that the defendant shouldn’t have used ibuprofen at all, but rather [an alternative compound] even though the FDA has not approved [that compound] for sale in the United States.” That won’t fly even in California [Beck]
  • Sky-high prices: “The pharmaceutical market is anything but free at present” [Marc Joffe, Reason]
  • Opioids epidemic poses a policy challenge but no time to panic [Jeffrey Singer/Cato, related podcast, op-ed, panel; an ACA angle?]
  • “Gene editing isn’t about designer babies, it’s about hope for people like me” [Alex Lee, Guardian]

May 24 roundup

July 15 roundup