Your monthly legal news update from Legalcalls.com by Attorney Jeff Keiser
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In this issue:
- Sunscreen in the spotlight?
- Trying Times with COVID in the Courts
- Stop The Accounting … Stuff
- Bad News Bellweather
- Zantac – Slow Speed Ahead
- Another Herbicide?
Sunscreen May Be In the Spotlight
On September 30, 2021, the JPML will hold another hearing regarding the centralization of several cases we’ve been talking about recently. The Phillips CPAP litigation may be the biggest case discussed at the hearing, but the Johnson & Johnson spray sunscreen case may become a larger topic of discussion for 2022. These cases have the potential to be massive cases, with billions of dollars of exposure.
Trying Times with COVID in the Courts
COVID has delayed several bellwether trials in several MDL cases. This is the natural extension of what the virus has done to society generally. The good news is that as we start to wrap up 2021, these trials appear to be restoring a bit of normalcy to the legal world. After more than a year of delays, judges have moved forward with trials in California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In addition to hernia mesh, trials have involved 3M’s combat earplugs, opioids, and talcum based baby powder.
Stop The Accounting … Stuff?
In the talcum powder cases, we previously discussed Johnson & Johnson’s attempts to shift liability to a separate company under a bankruptcy plan. That plan ran into problems this month, as plaintiffs in the talc case sought a TRO “to prevent J&J, or any of its corporate affiliates, from fraudulently transferring assets to a subsidiary and plunging it into bankruptcy.” This move could save J&J as much as $24b in talc claims. Bellwether trials continue through the end of the year.
Bad News Bellweather
Bad news in the first bellwether trial in the Bard hernia mesh MDL. In mid-September, the jury rejected all of plaintiff’s claims. After a mere 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury awarded $0 in damages. Commentators have noted that the defense verdict in this case probably won’t do anything to change the outcome in these cases. A global settlement is still almost a foregone conclusion.
Un-vaxxed Opioid Case
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, overseeing the opioid multi-district litigation, rescheduled a bellwether trial against several pharmacies from May 10, 2021 to Oct. 4, 2021. In preparation, Polster tried to exclude un-vaccinated jurors, but he reversed himself after the pharmacies protested.
Zantac – Slow Speed Ahead
Zantac is also slowly steaming ahead. While it isn’t as close as some had hoped, these cases are starting to head for trial, and the first bellwether in the California mass tort case (similar to a state level MDL) is now scheduled for October 10, 2022. In addition to the trial in 2022, three other bellwether trials in the California litigation will follow in 2023.
As Roundup enters the global settlement phase of the litigation, another herbicide has entered the field as a potential replacement. Paraquat, manufactured by Chevron and Syngenta, has been centralized as MDL 3004 in the Southern District of Illinois. Bellwether trials have already been scheduled for late-2022, and while there may not be as many cases as in Roundup, the potential is great in this case. Stay tuned!
See you next month with more!
Craig H. Alinder, Vice President