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CEO DATELINE – Trade group found not liable in baby-powder case

July 1, 2021
By William Ehart

A U.S. judge dismissed the Personal Care Products Council from one of the many lawsuits stemming from the Johnson & Johnson talcum-powder product-liability case.

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On June 16, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson granted PCPC’s motion for summary judgment in a multi-district case, finding that the trade group was not liable in either New Jersey or Washington, D.C., for claims made by the plaintiffs of negligence and fraud for misrepresenting or concealing the dangers of talc.

The judge had to consider elements of both jurisdiction’s laws.

“Because plaintiffs have failed to show that PCPC committed an underlying tortious act, plaintiffs cannot proceed with a civil conspiracy claim against PCPC,” the judge wrote.

And she noted with surprise that the plaintiffs had not even claimed in arguments before her that PCPC be considered a manufacturer or marketer of the talcum powder.

But Wolfson weighed in on that question.

“I find that PCPC does not have a legal duty to consumers to ensure that its members’ products are safe for consumer use,” Wolfson wrote. “PCPC is a voluntary trade association that has no control over the ingredients used by cosmetic manufacturers. PCPC is in no way involved in the manufacture of cosmetic products, like talcum powder, and it does not purport to test its members’ products for safety and warrant that safety to the general public.” 

PCPC declined to comment when contacted by CEO Update, citing the fact there are still about 650 cases and state lawsuits outstanding.

Johnson & Johnson lost its own latest bid in the ongoing legal battles. On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the company’s appeal of a multibillion-dollar judgment against it. Plaintiffs claim that J&J’s talc baby power caused their ovarian cancer. A Missouri appeals court last year had rejected J&J’s bid to throw out the $4.7 billion verdict against it. However, that court reduced the award to $2.2 billion.
J&J stopped making baby powder last year but denies a link to cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, studies of cosmetic talc—which is free of asbestos—have not proven that it causes cancer, but research continues.