Illinois Talcum Powder Plaintiffs Can Stay in Cook County
A Chicago federal judge recently granted victory for five Chicago talcum powder plaintiffs with claims against Johnson & Johnson that could have huge implications for multidistrict litigations. In April, Judge Jorge Alonso in the Northern District of Illinois held that the inclusion of claims against Walgreens, an Illinois company, in addition to claims against Johnson & Johnson allowed the plaintiffs to bring their talcum powder injury cases against both defendants in state court rather than federal court. These complaints alleged that the plaintiffs were diagnosed with cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, sold to them by Walgreens.
Plaintiffs initially filed their cases in the Illinois state court, but Johnson & Johnson removed the cases to federal court and sought to have them combined with the thousands of other cases in the Multidistrict Litigation in New Jersey. Attorneys for the five plaintiffs, however, asked Judge Alonso to send the cases back to the Circuit Court of Cook County arguing that, since Walgreens is an Illinois company, the case lacked “complete diversity” between the parties.
In granting plaintiffs’ motion, Judge Alonso rejected Johnson & Johnson’s assertion that plaintiffs only brought claims against Walgreens to defeat diversity and keep the cases in state court. Judge Alonso quoted from a 2011 Seventh Circuit decision in holding that to defeat jurisdictional questions, Johnson & Johnson would have to prove that plaintiffs’ claims are “utterly groundless”—a standard Johnson & Johnson had failed to meet.
In so holding, Judge Alonso gave credit to the notion that Walgreens could be liable for introducing products, such as talcum powder, into the stream of commerce while knowing that the product could increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women.
Not only that, but Judge Alonso’s decision gives local plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation another avenue to remain in state court—should that be their preferred forum. We are looking forward to seeing how this decision plays out; not only in the talcum powder cases, but also in other multidistrict litigations.