Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

J&J's First California Talc-Powder Trial Is Headed to the Jury

  • L.A. jurors to decide whether J&J failed to warn about risks
  • Trial is first of about 300 cases in state over ovarian cancer

Johnson & Johnson is about to find out whether it’s on friendlier turf in California than in Missouri fighting allegations that its talc powder causes ovarian cancer in women.

After losing four out of five cases that went to trial in St. Louis, the company is wrapping up a trial before a jury in Los Angeles, the first such case to go to a state-court jury outside Missouri and one of more than 300 similar cases pending in California. The U.S. Supreme Court in June issued a ruling that made it harder for consumer lawyers to try cases in St. Louis and other cities that have been a destination of choice for litigation against companies that do business nationwide.

Jurors will be asked to decide whether J&J is liable for failing to warn Eva Echeverria, 62, about the alleged cancer risks of using its talcum products, which she started using when was 11. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Wednesday’s closing arguments by lawyers on both sides are set to begin soon.

There are about 4,800 claims in U.S. courts accusing J&J, the world’s largest health-care company, of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk. Most of the cases are in Missouri, New Jersey and California.

Read More: Welcome to St. Louis, the New Hot Spot for Litigation Tourists

In June, a Missouri judge halted a trial in St. Louis at J&J’s request following a U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting out-of-state plaintiffs joining lawsuits in state court. Up to then, J&J had been hit with verdicts as high as $110 million by Missouri juries. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company is appealing these verdicts.

The company has said the plaintiffs’ allegations aren’t supported by scientific evidence, pointing to a New Jersey state court decision last year tossing out two cases set for trial. That judge found evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer was inadequate.

The case is Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson, BC628228, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

— With assistance by Margaret Cronin Fisk

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