Missouri appeals court overturns $55m J&J verdict


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A $55 million verdict against the multinational pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has been overturned by an appeals court in Missouri.

The 2016 verdict awarded South Dakota resident Gloria Ristesund $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages in relation to a claim that J&J’s talc-based products had caused her to develop ovarian cancer in 2016.

However a three-judge panel in the Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District overturned the decision finding that the state court lacked jurisdiction. The decision was made in reference to a Supreme Court ruling in 2017 which declared that cases must either be taken in states in which the company in question is based or in states in which the injuries occurred. New Jersey-based Johnson and Johnson argued that Ristesund’s use of their products had only occurred in the states of South Dakota and Minnesota and as such, the court in Missouri lacked jurisdiction.

In a statement, plaintiff’s attorney Ted Meadows said J&J “used a jurisdictional technicality to escape liability for its reprehensible corporate conduct in this case, but the facts and the science behind these verdicts are not going away.”

Johnson and Johnson are currently battling more than 9,000 liability cases directly related to the connection between their talc-based products and two different forms of cancer. Specifically, customers have argued that J&J’s products have caused them to develop ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a tissue cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Ristesund, who claimed that her decades-long use of the multinational firm’s products for feminine hygiene purposes had caused her to develop cancer, won $55 million in damages in 2016. However the Missouri appeals court’s decision marks the third successful appeal secured by the world’s biggest healthcare firm.

Meadows added: “Like many trial verdicts before it, a Missouri jury studied the science and found that talc caused Ms Ristesund’s ovarian cancer and that Johnson & Johnson used its corporate influence to prevent government regulation and warnings from being placed on its talc-based powder products. We will continue to fight for Ms Ristesund and other victims, and will do so in courtrooms throughout the country, including Missouri.”

Louis Goss