When we buy a product, we expect it to perform properly. Personal hygiene products should not poison, maim, cut, burn, irritate or cause cancer. But when they do, as in today’s case of poison powder, a special section of personal injury laws protect you. Product liability law gives you legal recourse for your injury, pain and suffering if a product injures you. In general, the law requires a product to meet your ordinary expectations of safety.
A product that has an unexpected defect or danger, and causes you harm, does not meet ordinary expectations of you or the law. You might have the right to sue a whole list of people who were involved with presenting the harmful product to you as safe:
Metts Legal Thought Questions for Defective Product Lawsuits
- Did the manufacturer produce the defective product?
- Is the product inherently unsafe?
- Did the retailer, distributor or supplier mismanage or contaminate a product?
- Is the product unsafe because the manufacturer neglected to indicate proper instruction or warnings about risks of using the product?
Now, in order to better understand some points of law about product liability, let’s take a look at the infamous and current lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson.
Is there a cause and effect between Johnson and Johnson’s talcum power products and ovarian cancer? We have seen the debate escalate over many months.
Poison Product: The Plaintiff’s Baby Powder Stories
There can be no better example of a defective product lawsuit situation than the recent lawsuits by many women who allege they contracted ovarian cancer because of the habitual use of baby powder. In our next few blogs, we will explore their story, as Johnson and Johnson’s position in the matter of the poison powder product. An important note: In This blog, we are covering some of the basic story, but we are also using it as an example of how one case can influence another, and how a Supreme Court Ruling can affect many cases.
Many women grew up using Johnson and Johnson talcum powders to stay dry and cool. Years went by and they powdered personal parts of their bodies, without knowing the nature of the talc in talcum powder, but trusting the Johnson and Johnson name.
They matured and the J&J baby powder became a staple in many bathroom cabinets. Then, some of these women eventually contracted ovarian cancer. They discovered cancer was the price of the accumulative, inflammatory nature of the product.
Likewise, the plaintiff’s lawyers and scientific experts also found out there was evidence Johnson and Johnson knew talc was harmful. Yet, they continued to market it even after they changed formulas to baking soda instead of talc. The resulting multiple lawsuits, in multiple states against Johnson and Johnson, provide us with many insights into the product liability law aspects of personal injury law.
Enter, The Supreme Court:
On June 19 the Poison powder story also demonstrated how one such case can strongly influence another. Let’s pause in our discussion of Johnson and Johnson, and turn our attention to a recent new ruling by the Supreme Court in another case against Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in California.
Powder Gains Power Due to Supreme Court Plavix Ruling
On that date, Supreme Court Justices made a ruling 8-1. The ruling forbids out-of-state residents from pressing their civil suit against Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in California. They had based their cases on bad experiences with Plavix, a blood thinning drug. However, they had neither bought nor taken the drug in California. They bought and used the drug while they resided in other states.
An Aw-ha Moment for Metts Legal Readers:
This was also a factor in many of the cases brought forth by the women suing Johnson and Johnson. Although you would not expect the Supreme Court ruling to affect the Johnson and Johnson law suits, here’s the reason:
Recently, the courts have been very sensitive to venue-shopping, a practice in which plaintiffs actually hunt out and make their claims in certain states. Naturally, they choose the state which they assumed will favor them. The Supreme Court ruling set a precedent by forbidding the out-of-state plaintiffs to sue in states where they did not use or buy the products.
The Power of the Precedent
The new Supreme Court ruling might crush the hopes of many claims that Johnson and Johnson directly caused ovarian cancer caused in women. At last count, there were 3,000 women who were suing Johnson and Johnson for poison powder. Some have even died during their court battle, and their cases have transformed into wrongful death from injury by defective products.
Already the juries have awarded over 300 million dollars, but many of those awards are delayed in appellate courts. Now with the new Supreme Court ruling, re-trials and mistrials will happen. We will see how the rest of the cases play out in the courts of various states such as New Jersey, Delaware, Missouri and California.
Special Note: As soon as the Supreme Court made the ruling in the Plavix case, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison pronounced a mistrial in the suite of three women who were suing Johnson and Johnson in Missouri. Two of them, like the Plavix plaintiffs, were from out of state.
More Mistrials and Over-Turns Ahead?
However, we cannot help but notice that most of the women who have filed in Missouri do not reside in Missouri. On the docket, we see more than 1,000 lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson.
In conclusion, we have brought you information about two product liability cases and a recent Supreme Court Ruling. We hope you see the immense power of a Supreme Court ruling can cause. Likewise, we hope you noticed a little bit about how court precedents work to influence current cases. Thank you for visiting the Metts Legal blog today.
Next week we will be bringing you information that focuses more on the current Florida laws concerning defective products and product liability.
Remember, if a product injures you, you have rights. We will list some of the rights and responsibilities of this fascinating personal injury topic next week.