TOXIC TORTS: Tough on Talcum-Court sets Preferential Trial Date For Talcum Case


The judge overseeing California's coordinated docket for talcum powder cases has scheduled the first trial date, a significant event for companies and businesses that have talcum powder products. On January 30, 2017, at a hearing for Plaintiff Eva Echeverria's motion for trial preference, Judge Maren Nelson of the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County set trial in the case of Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, JCCP No. 4872, for July 3, 2017.

This involves the claims of Plaintiff Eva Echeverria, who purportedly used Johnson & Johnson's talcum based baby powder and absorbent body powder for decades. She claims that her exposure to talcum powder was a substantial factor in causing her ovarian cancer, as well as causing her pain and suffering. Previously in the litigation, Echeverria moved for trial preference, claiming that she did not expect to live beyond the next six months due to her ovarian cancer.

Two of the defendants, Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc, opposed Echeverria's motion for preference, arguing that her motion would not only undermine the Court's coordination efforts, but also that there was insufficient time for discovery. Moreover, the defendants argued that Echeverria's motion failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of her motion, arguing that there is little scientific research regarding talcum powder's connection with cancer, especially ovarian cancer.

In reply, Plaintiff Echeverria provided three declarations from two oncologists, one of whom had been treating her since 2007, to support her argument for preferential trial dates due to her declining health. With supporting declarations of her doctors, Echeverria argued that her ovarian cancer was resistant to treatment, that she had been hospitalized in relation to her ovarian cancer, and that she had a grave prognosis. Echeverria also argued that the defendants failed to provide medical evidence to contradict the declarations made by her oncologists with regards to the seriousness of her ovarian cancer. Moreover, Echeverria argued that the early trial date would not interfere with the Court's efforts in coordinating the cases, arguing that her counsel could both prepare her own case for trial while furthering the coordinated case proceeding. Ultimately, Judge Nelson agreed with the plaintiff, and set a preference trial date for July 3, 2017.

California's coordinated docket for talcum powder cases, as well as the upcoming trial for the Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases in July 2017, should place companies and businesses on alert. As previously reported, in prior cases involving talcum powder, plaintiffs received large awards; including a $70 million verdict for a plaintiff suffering from ovarian cancer. Despite the dearth of research regarding the connection between talcum powder exposure and cancers such as ovarian cancer, California's court system has taken a serious interest in these talc cases, as demonstrated by the court's efforts to coordinate the cases. Companies with talcum products should be aware of the court's willingness to set a preference trial in talcum cases, despite few scientific studies linking talc to cancer and despite the Los Angeles County court's efforts to have a coordinated talcum powder docket.

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