A Circuit Court judge in Illinois issued contempt of court orders against Johnson & Johnson and an employee of the company for failure to appear in court in the latest talc baby powder trial in which a plaintiff alleged that long-term use of the discontinued product caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Contempt-of-court orders were issued by Judge Christopher Kolker after Dr. Susan Nicholson, J&J’s vice president of women’s health, failed to appear in a circuit court in Illinois for the trial of Elizabeth Driscoll, a longtime user of J&J’s powders who died in September 2016 after an 18-month battle with ovarian cancer, Yahoo Finance reported. Driscoll’s sister filed the claim against J&J.
After the contempt-of-court orders were issued, Judge Kolker instructed the jury to disregard Dr. Nicholson’s previous testimony and struck all her previous testimony from the record.
Judge Kolker stated that he did not find Dr. Nicholson “to be a credible witness,” per Yahoo Finance.
Plaintiff’s attorney, Jere Beasley, said, “Plain and simple, J&J tried to bully this jury and this judge. As the biggest bully on the Big Pharma block, J&J will try anything to avoid responsibility for how it has poisoned thousands of women. J&J is a company that has lost its way and, in the process, turned on its own customers.”
Driscoll’s lawsuit is the first of several talc trials across the nation that have been rescheduled for this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Next year, testimony is scheduled to begin in a New Jersey federal court for multidistrict consolidation of over 30,000 ovarian cancer lawsuits.
J&J will have to pay 20 women $2.1 billion for damages allegedly caused by talc powder after the U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear J&J’s appeal of a Missouri court’s judgement against the company that was upheld by that state’s Supreme Court.
The lower court found that J&J had engaged in “reprehensible conduct” for decades by repeatedly denying that its talcum powder could be contaminated with asbestos, a cancer-causing mineral that’s located in close proximity to talc mineral in quarries. The court also accused J&J of covering up the association between talc use and ovarian cancer.
In October 2020, roughly five months after J&J announced it would no longer make or market talcum baby powder for the North American market, the company settled approximately 1,000 talc claims for $100 million.