A Missouri appeals court has overturned a landmark case against Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday (Oct 17) won the reversal of a US$72 million (S$97 million) verdict in favour of the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer they claimed stemmed from her use of the company's talc-based products like Johnson's Baby Powder. She was 62 when she died in 2015. The court said the trial should not have taken place in the state because Fox was from Alabama. Bristol-Meyers, maker of the blood thinner Plavix, is based in NY.
The appeals court decision endangers the other Missouri verdicts against J&J as well as hundreds of talc actions filed in the St. Louis court against the company. A spokeswoman said after Tuesday's ruling that Johnson & Johnson is confident its appeals will be successful.
Under the new standard, "a non-resident plaintiff must establish an independent basis for specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant in the state", the appellate court said.
The February 2016 verdict for Fox's family was the first of four jury awards totaling $307 million in state court in St. Louis to plaintiffs who accused J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products.
The court cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer that found there must be a strong connection between the plaintiff and the state where a lawsuit is filed.
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". While Fox's case has 65 plaintiffs, only two live in Missouri.
"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. The case involved suits against Bristol-Myers Squibb over the blood-thinning medication Plavix.
He has argued that Missouri is the proper jurisdiction Johnson & Johnson packages and distributes some of its products through Pharma Tech in Missouri.