A New Jersey federal judge has bumped 11 cases in Johnson & Johnson’s ongoing talc litigation back to Missouri state court, saying the federal court lacks jurisdiction in the matter.
In a decision issued June 29, Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson determined that her court lacked the authority to hear the complaints because, among other reasons, some plaintiffs lived in the same states as the defendants, making it a state matter, according to Law360.
At issue in the cases is whether talc-based powders cause ovarian or uterine cancers; whether J&J knew, or should have known, about the health dangers of talc exposure; and whether the company misrepresented the safety of Baby Powder and similar powders to consumers, regulators, doctors and scientists. More than 16,000 cases are pending against J&J and other defendants.
The judge’s ruling may play out in the plaintiffs’ favor. Federal civil court is generally more favorable to defendants because of more limited discovery rules, whereas state court is generally more favorable to plaintiffs because of the greater likelihood of a supportive jury, according to an analysis by the Federal Judicial Center.
More than 170 nonprofit organizations have called for J&J to stop selling its talc-based powder globally, and to pull all remaining inventory in North America. The company halted shipments of Baby Powder to the U.S. and Canada in May, citing distribution problems related to the coronavirus pandemic.
J&J continues to maintain its talc-based Baby Powder is safe. “Not a single professional organization or regulator has concluded that there is scientific evidence supporting the plaintiff claim of causation between talc and ovarian cancer,” the company said in a recent statement.