The federal judge in charge of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) between Johnson & Johnson and women who claim that the company’s talcum powder gave them ovarian cancer has issued two new orders intended to set a timetable for bringing the thousands of cases to trial. In his Oct. 10 orders, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp set a number of deadlines for plaintiffs and defendants to abide and ruled on an amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs.
In the order concerning the amended complaint, Judge Shipp reviewed an August motion by plaintiffs to add new defendants to the MDL. Three defendants were chosen to potentially join the list of defendants in the MDL: Johnson & Johnson Holdco, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Kenvue Inc. Judge Shipp notes that in addition to the plaintiffs who are requesting to add these defendants, some plaintiffs have simply filed an amended complaint without permission from the court. In his concluding paragraph, Judge Shipp states that the court will only recognize these new defendants if the August 14 motion to amend the master complaint passes. He explicitly states that this order will affect all complaints in all formats and states of filing in order to preserve judicial efficiency.
In his second order, Judge Shipp issued 13 deadlines and rules for various stages of the MDL procedure. First, Judge Shipp ordered that plaintiffs must order and serve documents including updated medical records and pathology materials for bellwether trials by October 11. Many of the cases in the Bellwether Trial Pool are for plaintiffs who are suffering from stage three ovarian cancer and therefore require expedience in receiving an outcome before they may pass away. As part of the first order, plaintiffs must also serve supplemental documents to the court and defending counsel, including expert witness reports for stage three cases, by November 15. Deposition of plaintiff experts also received a deadline of January 22, 2024.
Meanwhile, expert witness lists for the defense must be prepared and served to the court and plaintiffs by March 4, 2024. The defense will then have until April 15, 2024, to complete their expert witness depositions.
Items six and seven of Judge Shipp’s order set limits on the material and length of general causation and case-specific expert witnesses, respectively.
Items 8 through 10 related to the Daubert Hearings, official court proceedings designed to assess whether scientific data is based on sound processes without necessarily ruling on whether a conclusion drawn from that process is correct or not. Daubert motions must be filed by May 6, 2024, with opposing motions due by June 5th and replies supporting the Daubert motions due by the 26th.
The final three orders all cover issues of timing related to the first bellwether trial. Plaintiffs must identify the cases for the first trial 75 days before the first trial date. Plaintiffs and defendants must serve their final list of experts 60 and 45 days before the first trial, respectively. Last, the Joint Final Pretrial Order must be served at least 30 days before the first trial date. Significantly, while all of these items are dependent on the date of the first trial, Judge Shipp does not use this time to designate when that first trial date will be.
With these orders, Judge Shipp continues to move this legal proceeding forward toward the inevitable day when Johnson & Johnson must face plaintiffs and assess the damages that they may owe.
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