J&J loses venue fight for talc lawsuits in Missouri

A Johnson & Johnson building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - The Missouri Supreme Court has denied Johnson & Johnson’s bid to move out of a St. Louis state court thousands of lawsuits alleging the company’s talc-based products can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

The state high court on Tuesday this week rejected an appeal by J&J JNJ.N seeking to transfer most of the 2,500 lawsuits pending in state court in St. Louis to courts across the country where the plaintiffs are located.

The plaintiffs are women and their families who claim studies show J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products increase the risk of ovarian cancer when used in the vaginal area. J&J has said more comprehensive studies show no such link.

St. Louis has become the main destination for talc lawsuits nationally, and J&J has been hit with three straight jury verdicts there, totaling $195 million. The company had hoped to reverse that trend by changing the venues for the cases to potentially friendlier jurisdictions.

In September, a state court judge in New Jersey, where J&J is based, dismissed two talc lawsuits against the company.

J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich declined to comment on the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision.

The company had argued in court filings that plaintiffs’ attorneys tainted the St. Louis jury pool by spending nearly $10 million on television commercials in the last year, with a disproportionate amount running in St. Louis. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have denied the allegation.

Ted Meadows, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed plaintiffs’ right to file their claims in a single location.

The next trial is slated to start on Feb. 6 in St. Louis. In that case, Nora Daniels of Columbia, Tennessee, alleges she used J&J Baby Powder for 36 years and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013.

Reporting by Erica Teichert