Thousands of people across the country have sued Johnson & Johnson for not warning them about alleged health dangers associated with talc — the mineral used in Johnson’s Baby Powder.
In February 2016 a St. Louis Circuit Court jury ordered the company to pay the late Jacqueline Fox’s family $72 million in actual and punitive damages in her case against the company.
But on Tuesday the Missouri Eastern District appeals court overturned that verdict on jurisdictional grounds.
Fox, who died four months before the trial, believed that more than 25 years of using Johnson & Johnson talc-based products for feminine hygiene contributed to the ovarian cancer that killed her. She was 62 when she died in 2015.
The appeals court ruled unanimously that Fox could not make her stand in Missouri because of a Supreme Court decision in June that limits where injury lawsuits can be filed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
In that case, involving Bristol-Myers Squibb, the court decided California courts could not hear claims from non-residents who were not injured there and where the defendant was not based in the state. Bristol-Meyers, maker of the blood thinner Plavix, is based in New York.
The Missouri appeals court said Fox’s case — Fox was from Alabama — should not have been tried in St. Louis, Reuters reported.
Fox’s lawyer Jim Onder, who represents plaintiffs in similar pending cases, told the Post-Dispatch he was disappointed by the decision but “optimistic that the Missouri Supreme Court will find otherwise.”
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said the company was pleased with the court’s decision as the appeals process moves forward.
“In the cases involving non-resident plaintiffs who sued in the state of Missouri, we consistently argued that there was no jurisdiction and we expect the existing verdicts that we are appealing to be reversed,” Goodrich said.
The verdict in Fox’s case was the first of four jury awards worth $307 million given in state court in St. Louis. The plaintiffs had accused Johnson & Johnson of not adequately warning them about cancer risks involving talc-based products.
The Missouri cases, many of which have been filed by out-of-state plaintiffs, have faced jurisdictional questions ever since the Supreme Court decision over the summer, Reuters reports.
Fox was one of 65 plaintiffs in her case; only two of them were Missouri residents, according to Reuters.
“The fact that resident plaintiffs sustained similar injuries does not support specific jurisdiction as to non-resident claims,” Judge Lisa Van Amburg wrote in her decision.
Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court sent the Bristol-Meyers case back to California state courts, Onder told the Post-Dispatch he hopes the Missouri Supreme Court will review Fox’s case and do the same.
He has argued that Missouri is the proper jurisdiction because Johnson & Johnson packages and distributes some of its products through Pharma Tech in Missouri.