Junk Science at a Tipping Point?

March 01, 2018

Are plaintiffs’ lawyers beginning to sound the retreat when it comes to junk science lawsuits falsely claiming that talcum powder causes cancer?  A recent development suggests they may be and, if not, they should.

On February 22nd, just two-and-half weeks before a trial set to start in Washington State, lawyers from The Lanier Law Firm voluntarily dismissed the case of a client claiming her mesothelioma, a deadly disease of the lungs, was caused by exposure to asbestos allegedly contained in talcum “Baby Powder” made by Johnson & Johnson.  The dismissal followed a hearing for summary judgment, in which the state court judge questioned the junk science evidence and indicated he was going to dismiss the case anyway. 

In a similar case in November, a New Jersey jury sided with Johnson & Johnson, which claimed that 50 years of testing showed its baby powder is safe and does not contain asbestos.  Another trial is underway in New Jersey now.

Judicial scrutiny of junk science in talc cases has also resulted in the failure of some of the almost 5,000 cases claiming talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.  In 2016, a New Jersey state judge granted J&J summary judgment in an ovarian cancer case and was critical of the plaintiffs’ junk science experts.  In 2017, a Los Angeles state court judge overturned a $417 million plaintiffs’ verdict saying they did not have credible evidence to prove their case. 

In Missouri, where lax rules of evidence have attracted many of these cases, one talc case has resulted in a defense verdict, one plaintiffs’ verdict has been overturned for jurisdictional reasons, and three other plaintiffs’ verdicts are likely to be tossed for the same reasons.

There has never been a scientifically proven link between talc and cancer—ovarian or otherwise. The American Cancer Society has looked but found no definitive link. Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration denied a petition to put a warning label on talcum powder because of a lack of evidence.

A connection between talc and ovarian cancer is, even in its most forward-leaning interpretation, merely a hypothesis.

Mesothelioma and ovarian cancer are horrible diseases, but plaintiffs’ lawyers do their suffering and unwitting clients a grave disservice in leading them to believe they are victims in a fraudulent blame game based on junk science.

The Lanier Law Firm is one of the top plaintiffs’ firms in the country. In dismissing its client’s case last week, it seems the firm is coming to grips with the fact that judges aren’t falling for the dubious evidence they’re presenting.