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A federal judge on Friday denied Johnson & Johnson's request to transfer about 2,400 lawsuits over its talc-based baby powder to a district court in Delaware, sending the cases back to state courts.
J&J asked to transfer the cases, which alleg its baby powder contained asbestos and caused ovarian and other cancers, from state courts to a district court in Delaware after its talc supplier Imerys, facing talc lawsuits of its own, sought Chapter 11 protection in Delaware earlier this year.
In a ruling Friday, Judge Maryellen Noreika said the Delaware federal court does not have authority over the lawsuits against J&J simply because J&J's supplier filed for bankruptcy there. Noreika also said J&J failed to establish the lawsuits against the company directly affect Imerys and its bankruptcy proceedings.
"The judges in the states who are already handling these cases are better suited to hear the claims before them than is this Court, which would have to hear thousands of cases and apply different state laws to each," she said.
The denial leaves J&J at the mercy of dozens of different courts and judges. State courts have so far delivered J&J mixed results. A Missouri jury ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the company's talc-based baby powders contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
"We are disappointed in this decision, which would have streamlined the process for reviewing current cases and increased overall efficiency for all parties involved," a J&J spokeswoman said in a statement.
The company said its position that the baby powder is "safe and does not cause cancer has not changed," and that it will continue to "vigorously defend" its products in court.
J&J faces more than 14,000 lawsuits alleging its baby powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.