Judge Johnson tosses Johnson Talc Cancer Lawsuits

Justice Peaking BlogA New Jersey judge with a growing reputation for dismissing lawsuits against Big Pharma corporations dismissed two J&J talc cancer lawsuits Friday, September 2, 2016.

Atlantic County Judge Nelson C. Johnson dismissed lawsuits brought by two women who alleged Johnson & Johnson talcum products caused their ovarian cancer. Mr. Nelson decided (“ruled” in legal parlance) that the women’s experts failed to offer enough scientific proof to link talc with ovarian cancer.

Judge Johnson nixes Jury Trials
Judges in three previous talc cancer trials let juries hear, weigh, and decide the evidence. Mr. Nelson, by contrast, seems to prefer not letting cases get to juries. He has become somewhat famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view or Big Pharma stock portfolio) for not letting juries hear and weigh evidence. The judge also singlehandedly wiped out several hundred Accutane cases with a similar ruling.

In several Accutane trials, as in several talc trials, juries heard hard evidence from both sides, weighed it for weeks, then ruled that people were hurt by a company’s actions (Hoffman-LaRoche in Accutane) and awarded them compensation. Despite those previous successful outcomes for Accutane plaintiffs, Mr. Nelson also completely overrode the country’s jury system in that litigation. He decided the science did not support plaintiffs’ arguments, then simply dismissed several hundred cases filed in his court.

Judge Nelson C. Johnson, in granting Johnson & Johnson summary judgment to dismiss,  ruled that Brandi Carl and Diana Balderrama’s experts were qualified, but then he characterized their arguments with tortured nouns such as “narrowness and shallowness.” The judge also argued – parroting J&J’s own lawyers’ arguments which no jury in Johnson’s court would be allowed to hear and weigh – that the women’s witnesses could not explain how talc found in ovaries can cause ovarian cancer.

Judge Johnson tosses Johnson Talc Cancer Lawsuits JohnsonJudge Johnson said, “Though both plaintiffs’ experts are eminently qualified, their areas of scientific inquiry, reasoning, and methodology are slanted away from objective science and towards advocacy. It is the court’s conclusion that the opinions expressed by plaintiffs’ experts fail to demonstrate ‘that the data or information used were soundly and reliably generated and are of a type reasonably relied upon by comparable experts.’ ”

The nuances of many different studies (paid for by Johnson & Johnson in the case of talc) always put all of them to question. The way the studies were designed, how participants were chosen, excluded, eliminated early or later dropped, and a whole laundry list of other factors always beg for interpretation at the end of the day. That’s the whole point of a jury trial in such cases, to let a jury hear all sides of how these studies were conducted by companies with vested interests in the outcomes.

There was a time in the country when a jury was allowed to hear, think, weigh and decide such issues. This ruling represents a disdain for the jury system and the intelligence of all Americans. Judge Johnson simply echoed the arguments of Johnson & Johnson lawyers, as he had done for Hoffman-LaRoche in Accutane.

Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits

Attorney David Matthews, whose law firm is handling J&J Talc Cancer Lawsuits, said Judge Johnson’s ruling will affect the more than 200 talc cancer lawsuits consolidated before him in New Jersey’s state courts; however, Johnson’s ruling should not impact the more than 1,000 suits filed in Missouri state court in St. Louis.

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