Previously, we began looking at the massive jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a talc liability case against Johnson & Johnson. As we noted, talc liability litigation has to be a frustrating thing for the company to be dealing with, given that the weight of the overall evidence does not support finding a connection between use of talc-containing products and development of ovarian cancer.
For any company facing product defect litigation, it isn’t enough to rely on the evidence in addressing product defect liability. In any case, it is up to the jury—or the judge, if it is a bench trial—to weigh the credibility of the evidence, and to determine whether the evidence supports the plaintiff’s claims. Businesses should always work with experienced legal counsel to ensure they build a case that accounts not only for the evidence, but also for the perceptions of the fact-finder in the case.
Even if many product defect cases are decided based on the credibility or strength of the evidence, there are various other issues businesses have to take into consideration to build a strong defense. For businesses, the way to build a strong product defect defense depends not only on the facts and circumstances of the case, but also on the business’ goals in the litigation. In some cases, a business’ goal will be to have the complaint dismissed on some technical grounds, or, when the facts are undisputed and the applicable law is clear, to have the judge render a summary judgment in its favor.
Other product defect cases may require going to trial to demonstrate that the plaintiff cannot provide sufficient, relevant, reliable evidence in support its claims. In still other product defect cases, the business may have a more modest goal, such as identifying third parties to share some of the liability. When it is clear that the business is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, a business may simply have the goal of minimizing its liability by negotiating a favorable settlement out of court, or by going to court to minimize the damages for which it is liable.
In any product defect case, the aim of skilled legal counsel is to help ensure the business has strong advocacy so that its rights and interests are protected, and that the case may be resolve in the best possible way as early as possible.