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Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications mostly for its ability to be molded into almost any shape, as well as its heat-resistant properties. Unfortunately, the widespread use of asbestos attributes to 3,000 annual diagnoses even to this day.

Asbestos was once commonly used in vinyl flooring tiles, home insulation, auto parts-such as brakes and gaskets, and even in everyday appliances like ovens. The mineral found extensive use in industrial applications for pipefitting, steamfitting, and other heavy-duty insulation and gasket-making applications. Asbestos was once widely used in military applications aboard Navy ships in engine rooms.

One of the main complications with mesothelioma is its latency period – the time between exposure and diagnosis, which can be anywhere from 20 years to 50 years, leaving patients with diminished treatment options upon diagnosis. The type of mesothelioma discovered can also further complicate matters. The three main types of mesothelioma are:

A New Jersey federal judge held key evidentiary hearings in coordinated pretrial proceedings covering thousands of asbestos talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson through the process of multidistrict litigation (MDL). Lawsuits involved in MDL allow both sides to conduct common discovery in cases to apply rules at trial which will apply at trial for all the individual cases, a procedure which may benefit both plaintiffs and defendants depending on the judge’s rulings.

Of particular importance to the pretrial MDL hearings in the asbestos cancer lawsuits are the expert witnesses identified by the plaintiffs to testify at trial. Those expert witnesses include biologists, physicians and epidemiologists who have concluded there is scientific evidence that talc use can cause ovarian cancer. Back in May 2019, Johnson & Johnson asked the federal judge overseeing the MDL process to exclude the opinions of 22 expert witnesses retained by the plaintiff on the grounds these individuals “they misapply scientific principles” and “engage in unsupported leaps of logic.”

Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have said in media interviews that an exclusion of some or all of the plaintiffs’ witnesses along with a judge’s ruling there is insufficient evidence of causation to present to any jury would wipe out the majority of the cases before they could see a courtroom. On the other hand, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have asked the judge to deny Johnson & Johnson’s request, arguing their expert witnesses are qualified and rely on sound methodologies to reach their opinions.

A federal judge recently denied a request by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to transfer thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits from various state courts under one single federal court. The move comes after Johnson & Johnson’s one-time co-defendant and talc supplier, Imerys Talc USA, declared bankruptcy in the face of an estimated 14,000 other asbestos cancer lawsuits filed against the pair over allegations the two produced carcinogenic talc-based products for decades.

Johnson & Johnson had asked a Delaware federal district court judge to transfer some 2,400 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits to her court in the wake of co-defendant Imerys filing for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Had Johnson & Johnson been granted the motion, the company would have been able to conduct common discovery on the asbestos cancer lawsuits under a unified jurisdiction, potentially giving the company more leverage to settle or otherwise resolve the claims.

“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,” the federal judge said. The judge’s ruling noted her federal court did not have the authority over the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson due to the fact that the company’s co-defendant filed for bankruptcy in that court and that it failed to establish the lawsuits against it affect Imerys and the bankruptcy proceedings.

10 U.S. states and the District of Columbia recently filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the agency to tighten rules regarding the oversight of asbestos and reduce the possible harm to the public posed by the mineral’s use. The suit is being led by the states attorneys general of California and Massachusetts, Xavier Becerra and Maura Healey, with Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia joining.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen that kills tens of thousands of people every year, yet the administration is choosing to ignore the very serious health risks it poses,” Healey said in a statement to the press. While federal laws have regulated asbestos to the point where the substance is effectively banned from use, changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed by Congress in 2016 would create a pathway for lessening regulations.

The lawsuit comes after the plaintiffs request for the EPA to collect more data on asbestos was denied by the agency in which it determined that the EPA was already aware of all current uses of asbestos, and had the essential information needed to assess the risks. To that point, the EPA points to an April 2019 rule giving it the power to review the asbestos products that were no longer on the market before they could be sold again in the United States.

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