Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”
What started years ago as a single claim against Johnson & Johnson has snowballed into a potentially multi-billion dollar legal mess. A recent jury verdict in California amounts to a major defeat for J&J regarding the potential harm caused by its popular baby powder. Experts say that the recent result is likely to make problems even worse for the company, as more and more injured victims come out of the woodwork. J&J appears to hope that by using some procedural issues it can make the filing of claims more difficult and reduce potential payouts.
The issue concerns the harm caused by J&J Baby Powder. Though the product has long been assumed by the public to be safe, given it’s ubiquitous use among babies, some scientists argue that harm can arise thanks to one of the ingredients in the baby powder, talc. Scientific studies have shown that talc can cause development of ovarian cancer. Specifically, the studies have linked the development of certain kinds of ovarian cancer to the genital use of talc products.
In the California case, a 63-year-old woman brought suit against J&J arguing that after using the baby powder for decades, she developed terminal ovarian cancer. She claimed that J&J failed to warn about potential dangers of talc use, despite the widespread knowledge of studies showing harm caused by the product. The case was compelling to a jury who ultimately awarded the woman a massive $417 million in damages. The jury included $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. The last figure is especially telling in that it demonstrates the jury’s desire to punish J&J, sending a message that it’s behavior was unacceptable and should be discouraged in the future.
The verdict was a big deal for the injured woman, but also for J&J and others who have brought similar lawsuits against the corporation. The verdict was the largest by far out of all the suits brought against J&J regarding baby powder. So far, J&J has fought five prior cases in Missouri on the subject. J&J lost four of the lawsuits and has been found responsible for $307 million in verdicts. Prior to the judgment from earlier this week, the largest victory by a plaintiff so far was for $110 million.
J&J, for its part, argues that its baby powder is safe and that federal regulators have never concluded that baby powder is carcinogenic. They claim they will continue to fight these cases, even as the total number of claims continues to mushroom. So far, experts say that more than 4,800 separate claims have been filed against J&J related to the baby powder issue.
Curiously, many of the claims have been filed in Missouri. The reason is that the earliest suits started there and, after securing positive verdicts, other injured plaintiffs decided to follow the lead. The problem for the plaintiffs is that many are from out of state, something J&J was quick to pounce on. The issue is that earlier this summer the Supreme Court handed down an important ruling where it held that state courts cannot hear claims against companies that are not either based in the state or are not the location where the alleged injuries occurred. If neither are true, according to the Supreme Court, the state courts should dismiss the claims. That appears to be happening already, with a judge in St. Louis recently declaring a mistrial in a baby powder case already underway, thanks to J&J’s urging.
Though J&J may be able to get the out-of-state complaints dismissed in Missouri, the good news is that these claims can either be re-filed in the state where J&J is based or in the home state of the injured plaintiff. Another possibility is to maintain the suit in Missouri based on the fact that one of the bottlers used by J&J to package the product is based there. Whether that argument succeeds has yet to be determined, though experts agree it is sure to be tested.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author:
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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