On Friday, lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have been approved by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to be centralized in a Florida federal court. These lawsuits accuse J&J of selling sunscreen products tainted with the carcinogen Benzene. The cases will be sent to a judge recommended by the company over choices some consumers’ attorneys pushed.
U.S. District Judge Anuraag Singhal of the Southern District of Florida is handling the first-filed action at issue. Despite no previous experience presiding over an MDL, the JPML members said that they are “confident that Judge Singhal will steer this litigation on a prudent course.”
The so-called Jimenez plaintiffs motioned to centralize the matters in New Jersey federal court, but after consideration, the JMPL opted for the Southern District of Florida stating it “offers a convenient and readily accessible district”.
The ruling comes after a Sept. 30 hearing, where the panel cited New Jersey’s “crushing case load” that challenged whether it was the appropriate place to centralize the lawsuits. J&J was also one to suggest Judge Singhal for centralizing the cases, pointing to the Garden State’s already crowded docket.
The plaintiff’s attorneys urged the panel to sending the cases to 3 more areas, in addition to New Jersey; the Northern District of Alabama, the Southern District of New York, or the Northern District of California.
The lawsuits in question accuse J&J of unlawfully failing its consumers of informing them of potential benzene in its line of sunscreen products. Benzene has been linked to leukemia and other forms of cancer.
On July 14, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (subsidiary of J&J) stated that “internal testing identified low levels of benzene in some samples of the products.” As such, five Aveeno and Neutrogena sunscreen spray product lines were voluntarily recalled. Online pharmacy Valisure released similar test results two months prior.
In Friday’s order, the JPML stated “centralization of these actions in the Southern District of Florida will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation