U.S. Chamber of Commerce & Other Biz Groups Ask High Court to Review $2.1 Billion Talc Verdict

Consumer GoodsLegal News

Last month, in an expected move, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced it would petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review a Missouri jury’s decision to award 22 women $2.1 billion for allegedly developing ovarian cancer as a result of using asbestos-contaminated talc baby powder in the genital area over the course of many years. 

The Supreme Court agrees to hear roughly 100-150 cases each year, out of the more than 7,000 the body is petitioned to review. 

On Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the conservative-leaning pro-business lobbying group, as well as other business organizational interests, urged the nation’s high court to review the Missouri $2.1 billion jury talc verdict against J&J, Law360.com reports. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups believe, per Law360.com, that the consolidation of the 22 cases and others like it “hampers defendants’ due process rights.”

The pandemic has led to increased consolidation of trials. This, wrote the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Tort Reform Association and others in a brief, might prevent defendants from “putting on a fair defense.” Additionally, lumping multiple plaintiffs into a consolidated trial could create biases against the defense, the brief added. 

The pro-business groups believe that the two Missouri courts that ruled in favor of the plaintiffs—the 22 women were originally awarded $4.7 billion—have “lost sight of the constitutional interests that are at stake, reducing petitioners’ due process rights to a bare requirement that the jury be instructed to decide each plaintiff’s claim on its own merits.”  

Out of the $2.1 billion awarded to the 22 women, $1.6 billion were for punitive damages. Although each of the women’s injuries differed in severity, the plaintiffs were awarded an identical amount. This fact also troubles the pro-business groups urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The business interests argue that it’s unfair to group a class of plaintiffs together with different injuries because doing so can “stoke higher punitive damages.” 

In the “Missouri 22 Talc Case,” Gail Ingham is named as a lead plaintiff. Ingham passed away while the case was pending. Meanwhile, other plaintiffs have had their cancer go into remission. 

(Should the fact that some of the plaintiffs’ cancer has gone into remission factor in the amount of compensation or damages awarded?) 

J&J petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case after Missouri’s high court refused to take up the appeal. 
To read the full report at Law360.com, click here. (Subscription required)

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