Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Imerys Talc of America asks for denial of reconsideration in exposure lawsuits


By John Sammon | Jul 5, 2018

EDWARDSVILLE – A defendant has asked Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge to deny reconsideration of an earlier decision to dismiss two cases for lack of jurisdiction in a lawsuit against a producer of talc used in Johnson & Johnson baby powder.

A hearing was scheduled for the matter on July 3.

Imerys Talc operates mines and processing plants around the world, supplying the mineral talc used as a baby powder for companies including Johnson & Johnson.

A suit brought by the plaintiff Candace Lewis against Imerys Talc and co-defendants Johnson & Johnson and Walgreen Co. alleges that talc and the asbestos it contained caused her to develop ovarian cancer. Judyth Harlan also filed a similar suit and both plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal.

On Feb. 26, Mudge dismissed Imerys Talc from the Lewis and Harlan suits saying the company’s lack of principal involvement in Illinois meant the court lacked jurisdiction.

In its supplemental response, Imerys cited Doty v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., where the 11th Judicial Circuit in McLean County granted its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on June 5.

“The defendant (Imerys) has conducted no activity in Illinois connected to the (Johnson & Johnson) products used by the plaintiffs,” Imerys stated in its supplemental response to Lewis' motion to reconsider the dismissal, citing the Doty court.

The Doty court concluded Imerys was not directly related to the Johnson & Johnson products that were the basis of the lawsuit.

“The court acknowledged 'specifically the (Imerys) sales rep in the state and a distributor within the state ... even considering its actions ... these activities are not related to the Johnson & Johnson products at issue in the litigation,” Imerys response noted.

Johnson & Johnson is currently being sued in a number of high-profile cases, including one in St. Louis, over allegations the company’s baby powder contained asbestos that caused 22 women to develop ovarian cancer.

Imerys noted in its response that another contention by the plaintiffs - that the court should exercise jurisdiction over Imerys based on a “stream of commerce theory” because the company had distributors in Illinois - was also rejected by the Mudge on Feb. 26.

“... The defendant is a raw material supplier who does not place a finished product into the stream of commerce,” the response stated.

The response stated that the Doty court found that the mere fact that a product may reach a particular state was not enough to demonstrate jurisdiction. The defendant must specifically target a state as the main focus of activity.

“The defendant has conducted no activity in Illinois connected to the products used by the plaintiff,” the response stated, citing findings in the Doty ruling.

The plaintiffs requested a reconsideration of the Feb. 26 dismissal on June 5.

Imerys Talc asked the court to deny the reconsideration request and grant further relief as the court deemed proper.  

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