Lobbying is not Conspiracy

Plaintiffs often seek to demonize corporate defendants, and one way they try to do so is by asserting that defendants engaged in a “conspiracy.”  For a plaintiff in one of the many talc/ovarian cancer cases pending in California state court, that tactic was unsuccessful as she failed to convince the court that she could proceed with such a claim.

The plaintiff, Eva Echevarria, sought to convince Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren E. Nelson that she had sufficient proof that defendants Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, Inc., conspired to influence the FDA and to prevent stricter regulation of talc products.  Judge Nelson rejected the plaintiff’s offer of proof, concluding that the record supported the existence of advocacy by the defendants “either directly or through the trade associations, that there shouldn’t be a warning and that publicly available studies should be interpreted a certain way.” In short, the court concluded that  lobbying efforts based on publically available information is, by definition, not conspiracy.

While this is, of course, a positive result for the defendants, more work remains to be done.  The court has directed the parties to prepare for jury selection and to have the case submitted to the jury by August 11. Hopefully, however, this decision will be useful for defendants in future cases in this and other litigations to defeat claims of conspiracy based on otherwise legal lobbying efforts.


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