It’s tough enough going up against a sympathetic plaintiff in a venue known for being unfriendly to corporate defendants under normal circumstances. Allison Brown of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Michael Brown of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough faced all that then some in defending Johnson & Johnson from a $50 million lawsuit from the family of an Illinois woman who died of a rare form of ovarian cancer.

The three-week trial in Circuit Court in St. Clair County, Illinois, was the first  in the series of cases claiming talc in J&J’s baby powder causes cancer to push off in-person since the onset of the pandemic. Late in the trial, the defense team had to cope with both the company and a key defense witness, J&J’s vice president of women’s health, Dr. Susan Nicholson, being held in contempt. Nicholson didn’t return to court in person to finish her cross-examination, citing a health emergency, leading the judge to strike her testimony and issue an adverse inference to the jury.