Federal Judge Allows Plaintiffs’ Experts to Provide Limited Testimony During Talc Litigation Against Johnson & Johnson
On April 27, 2020, Chief Judge Freda Wolfson of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that five of Plaintiffs’ experts could testify in support of Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendant Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Plaintiffs initiated an action several years ago, alleging their use of J&J talcum powder caused ovarian cancer because the powder contained traces of asbestos. J&J argued Plaintiffs’ experts should be barred from testifying because the relevant research does not support a correlation between J&J talcum powder and ovarian cancer. After years of discovery, the Court held a Daubert hearing to determine whether the experts were qualified to testify and whether their testimony would be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
After hearing and separately analyzing each expert’s testimony, the Court concluded that certain, but not all, aspects of their testimony was admissible. Judge Wolfson noted, “what remains clear from the general causation evidence relied on by the experts on both sides of this matter, is that there is scientific evidence supporting each side’s opinion.” “At best,” she continued, “the body of relevant scientific evidence is inconclusive and may be open to different interpretations.”
This ruling will significantly impact the more than 16,000 talc-related lawsuits against J&J nationwide, specifically those in jurisdictions which utilize the Daubert standard. Plaintiffs in this and other matters will be able to present expert testimony that J&J’s talc products can cause cancer based on epidemiological studies analyzing asbestos and heavy metal contamination. However, this testimony will be curtailed, based on Judge Wolfson’s ruling, barring Plaintiffs’ experts from testifying that inhaled talc can travel to the ovaries if inhaled or that the Plaintiffs who used the talcum powder were exposed to “significant” amounts of asbestos. It is important to note that, while this holding allows Plaintiffs’ experts to testify, it is not a ruling on the merits of the parties’ claims.
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