Plaintiffs’ attorneys call J&J’s move ‘a transparently desperate attempt to avoid trial’
U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton ruled Sept. 21 to remand the cases, which allege Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer, back to the 22nd Circuit Court in the City of St. Louis.
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson had filed a notice of removal on Sept. 16 in an attempt to move the dozens of cases joined in Tiffany Hogans et al. v Johnson & Johnson et al. to federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
The company argued the cases, which represent about 45 plaintiffs from 24 different states, were fraudulently joined in an attempt on the plaintiffs’ part to keep the suits in state court. J&J said other than the fact that all plaintiffs alleged the development of ovarian cancer after using its talcum powder product, they bore no other relation to each other.
“Indeed, they were fraudulently misjoined in an effort to defeat diversity jurisdiction,” Johnson & Johnson wrote in its notice of removal.
The company’s notice came less than two weeks before a third case from this pool was set to go to trial.
Attorneys for plaintiffs lambasted J&J’s attempt at removal, characterizing it as “an end-run” around state court Judge Rex Burlison to “delay trial at all costs.”
The attorneys filed an emergency motion to remand three days after J&J’s removal attempt, calling the company’s argument “frivolous,” “ill-conceived” and “a transparently desperate attempt to avoid trial and deny Plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini her day in Court.”
The two parties hashed out their arguments in a Sept. 20 telephone conference. Judge Hamilton denied J&J’s motion for removal the following day and remanded the cases back to the 22nd Circuit Court.
J&J’s 2nd attempt at removal
This is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has attempted to remove these state court cases into federal court. In August 2014, the company filed a notice of removal also claiming fraudulent misjoinder. The notice was denied by the same judge Hamilton, who said the misjoinder doctrine did not apply, and remanded the cases back to state court in September 2014.
Johnson & Johnson has also attempted several times to stay all upcoming talc trials, including in state court on June 27 and in federal court on Sept. 19. Both of these motions were apparently denied.
J&J’s bid to remove these cases to federal court comes at the heels of two multi-million-dollar verdicts in the same St. Louis court.
Two cases from Hogans et al. went to trial and ended this year in a $72 million and $55 million jury verdict.
Johnson & Johnson tried and failed to appeal one of those cases, in which plaintiff Gloria Ristesund was awarded $55 million in damages after developing ovarian cancer allegedly from years of using J&J’s baby powder on her genitals.
The company filed an appeal in the 22nd Circuit Court on June 30, which was denied by Judge Burlison earlier this month. J&J filed an alternative appeal on Sept. 16, the same day it filed its notice of removal, but Judge Burlison has not yet ruled on the second attempted appeal.
The case is Tiffany Hogans, et al.v. Johnson and Johnson, et al. The case number in the U.S District Court of the Eastern District of Missouri is 16-cv-01470. The Missouri 22nd Circuit Court case number is 1422-CC09012-01.
J&J denied stay in second St. Louis talc powder lawsuit
A circuit court judge denied Johnson & Johnson’s bid to stay all proceedings in another talcum powder lawsuit pending in Missouri state court last month.
Peggy Dunn et al. v Johnson and Johnson et al. includes dozens of plaintiffs who allege J&J’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. It is also pending in the 22nd Circuit Court in the City of St. Louis.
Johnson & Johnson filed a motion on June 28 to stay the upcoming talc trials, but the request was denied by Judge Bryan Hettenbach Aug. 31.
J&J subsequently filed a motion to reconsider on Sept. 14 and is awaiting the judge’s decision.
The case is Peggy Dunn et al. v Johnson & Johnson et al. The case number in the Missouri 22nd Circuit Court is 1422-CC10042-01.