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January 2019

Gordon & Rees Miami Team Wins Back-to-Back Dismissals for Talc Supplier in Products Liability Cases in Two Florida Counties, at Both Trial and Appellate Levels

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani’s Miami-based team recently obtained two consecutive first-of-their-kind victories in Florida products liability actions in Sarasota and Broward Counties.

First Florida Appellate Opinion Finding Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Over Material Supplier

The appellate team, led by partners David Gersten and Joseph Sacher, with assistance from Austin-based partner Leslie Benitez and senior counsel Lina Garcia, as well as Portland-based partner Nancy Erfle, obtained an appellate Opinion, from the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fourth District, reversing the earlier denial by the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida. 

The underlying seven-count complaint against Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Companies, Inc., Imerys Talc, and Publix Super Markets, Inc. sought recovery for alleged injuries and damages associated with ovarian cancer the plaintiff alleged was caused by her use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder.  Gordon & Rees’ client, Imerys Talc America, Inc., mines and supplies Talc that is used in the finished product manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. 

In 2017, the Miami team filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and presented oral argument before the trial court, which denied the motion, contrary to controlling Florida and U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In response, the Miami team filed an appeal and multiple notices of supplemental authorities in support of the pending appeal. 

The Opinion was issued without oral argument, more than 10 months after the appeal was fully briefed, and found that Imerys Talc America, Inc. was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida. The Opinion was the first of its kind in Florida.

First Florida Circuit Court Order Finding Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Over Material Supplier

The trial team, led by Miami-based partners Joseph Sacher and David Gersten, with assistance from Austin-based partner Leslie Benitez and senior counsel Lina Garcia, as well as Portland-based partner Nancy Erfle, obtained an order of dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction from the Circuit Court for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, Sarasota County, Florida, following briefing and oral argument. 

Relying on recent U.S. Supreme Court and related Florida precedent, including the aforementioned appellate Opinion issued the day before, the Sarasota County trial court found that the plaintiff failed to establish personal jurisdiction over Imerys Talc.  The Order was the first of its kind in Florida. 

The Recent Order and Opinion Provide Precedent for Use in Statewide Litigation

Beginning in 2017, the plaintiffs' bar has filed similar products liability actions throughout the state of Florida. In each instance, Gordon & Rees’ Florida-based trial team filed motions on behalf of Imerys Talc America, Inc.  There are currently 19 such actions pending in Broward, Hillsborough, Marion, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Volusia Counties, Florida, and more actions are expected to be filed.

The Imerys Talc Team was extremely pleased with the dismissal order obtained in Sarasota County, and was thrilled that Gordon & Rees was able to create state-wide precedent, based on the Fourth District Court of Appeals opinion – all of which will be useful in seeking similar dismissals in pending and future actions filed in Florida. 


Leslie A. Benitez
Nancy M. Erfle
Lina Y. Garcia
David M. Gersten
Joseph A. Sacher