Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”
Not long ago we wrote about the string of losses faced by consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson. The company had been on a streak, losing several cases in a row that set J&J back hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately for those who have been injured by J&J products, that trend may now have ended, with the company securing an important win before a Missouri appeals court last month.
What is the issue that the plaintiffs are suing over? The problem concerns talc-based products sold by J&J. The company has marketed its Johnson’s Baby Powder for years and thousands of women now say that they have been harmed as a result of using the seemingly harmless product. People have come forward accusing the company of selling an item that can lead to the development of ovarian cancer in regular users, resulting in serious injuries and, in many cases, death.
Recently, the family of Jacqueline Fox won an astounding $72 million verdict against J&J. Back in 2016, Fox brought suit against the company accusing it of failing to adequately warn consumers about the dangers posed by its products. A jury in St. Louis agreed that J&J was responsible and, since Fox had since passed away, issued its verdict in favor of her surviving family members. They were awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages.
Fox’s case was grouped together with a total of 65 plaintiffs. Their cases were all filed in St. Louis, home to many of the thousands of suits currently pending against J&J. The suits have been clustered overwhelmingly in one of two states: Missouri and California. In Fox’s case, out of the 65 plaintiffs, only two were residents of Missouri, the rest were from out of state (Fox herself was from Alabama).
The residency of the plaintiffs has become an important concern given a recent Supreme Court case that sought to limit the locations where a plaintiff can file suit against a corporation. The decision, which involved a suit against the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb, held that state courts should not be able to hear claims by non-residents where the plaintiffs were either not injured in the state or where the defendant company was not based in the state. The aim is to limit a practice known as forum shopping, where injured plaintiffs go looking for the most sympathetic jurisdiction to file their lawsuits against companies that might not have any real ties to the area.
After losing the case against Fox, J&J immediately filed its appeal. The appeal gained steam after the Supreme Court case and J&J recently won a reversal thanks to a decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. The appeals court said that the recent Supreme Court decision meant that personal injury lawsuits like this one cannot simply be filed anywhere, but must remain in states where either the plaintiff or the defendant have actual ties. In the case of Jacqueline Fox, the ties to Missouri were negligible, if not nonexistent.
The plaintiffs argued that Fox’s case was joined together with residents of Missouri, an attempt to streamline disputes by grouping similarly injured individuals together. However, the three-judge panel on the appeals court rejected the idea that this changes the end result. The court wrote that the fact that there are resident plaintiffs who suffered similar injuries does not change the fact that there is no specific jurisdiction for non-resident plaintiffs. J&J was quite pleased with the result, issuing a statement approving of the appeals court decision. The plaintiffs were understandably upset and now face the prospect of an expensive and lengthy re-litigation of the facts. The family has said they may choose to appeal the result.
The question going forward is how will the states interpret the recent Supreme Court ruling. If the latest ruling is any indication, it appears that plaintiffs will have to spend a lot more time thinking through issues of jurisdiction and residency than ever before. If they choose not to file suit at home, the only other option will be to sue in the state where the company is based, giving the corporation a potentially costly home field advantage.
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.
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.
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