A Long-Time Advocate of Individual Rights and Head of Ashcraft & Gerel’s Mass Torts Practice, Attorney Parfitt Is a Model for All
Ashcraft & Gerel is proud to be home to many excellent attorneys serving personal injury clients of every type. One of them is Senior Partner Michelle A. Parfitt, the plaintiff’s co-lead counsel, in Re: Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products marketing, sales practices and product litigation, MDL No. 2738. As a representative of thousands of women who allege that their talcum powder usage caused their ovarian cancer, Ms. Parfitt is showing how compassion and principled leadership can make a real difference in peoples’ lives. To celebrate her achievements, we recognize her in a special attorney spotlight.
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The Power of Perseverance
For nearly four decades, Ms. Parfitt has championed the rights of individuals harmed or silenced by corporations and their insurers. After law school, Ms. Parfitt arrived at Ashcraft & Gerel, and her drive was evident. Immediately she dedicated herself to learning all she could from the attorneys, judges, and other professionals around her.
At the time, the law profession was much more male-driven; building a career as a woman and litigator took tenacity, hard work and passion. However, this did not hold Ms. Parfitt back as she stepped up to help the firm in whatever capacity she could. She also made it a point never to accept being told “no” just because she was a woman and, through her perseverance, began to rise through the ranks.
Ms. Parfitt credits the leadership at Ashcraft & Gerel for mentoring and encouraging her as she worked to build the career she was after. The firm’s attorneys urged her to take advantage of opportunities that came her way and fight for the causes she valued. Early on, Ms. Parfitt focused on cases and issues addressing women’s health and public health issues generally. Aside from receiving less attention overall, women’s health concerns are often ignored by science and policy. Ms. Parfitt wanted to help women who suffered from poor healthcare or dangerous products. By giving them a voice and a chance to receive justice, she could help right wrongs and show other women they were not alone.
Making a Difference as Co-Lead Counsel of Litigation Against Johnson & Johnson
Today, Ms. Parfitt is the co-lead counsel of a multidistrict case against Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., Imerys Talc America and Personal Care Products Council. She is representing thousands of women from across the U.S. who allege Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. Talcum powder products provide no known health benefit or efficacy, and the cosmetic talcum products at issue- J&J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower contain known carcinogenic constituents which can include asbestos, fibrous talc, and other heavy metals.
The litigation is progressing in both state and federal courts. On April 27, 2020, Ms. Parfitt and her clients received a Daubert Order from The Honorable Chief Judge Wolfson, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey permitting general causation expert witnesses to testify that talcum powder products can cause ovarian cancer. This decision which specifically addresses the reliability and admissibility of the general causation expert witnesses permits these cases to proceed to trial.
Ms. Parfitt and the scores of committed attorneys acting on behalf of women suffering from this deadly disease are determined to do everything they can to help the thousands of women who have been harmed by their use of J&J’s talcum powder products. Johnson & Johnson “knowingly and with intent manufactured and marketed a consumer product … that had no benefit or efficacy, ”Ms. Parfitt said when asked about the case. Ms. Parfitt hopes to help everyone affected by Johnson & Johnson’s misconduct receive justice. Additionally, by making sure these women’s stories are heard, she is doing her part to dissuade other companies from trying to take advantage of the consuming public.
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Demonstrating the Meaning of Leadership
Ms. Parfitt has always been one to speak her mind, a trait she attributes to her “strong-willed, independent, and brilliant mother.” As a consumer advocate, her willingness to speak out has allowed her to make a difference. She pursued a career in law because she realized that dedication and passion to preserve the rights of those who can ‘t give voice to an issue would promote justice.
However, a law degree on its own does not promise influence. Ms. Parfitt’s consistent hard work and perseverance have given her an increasing level of influence in the cases she’s become part of over the years. She has been appointed by numerous federal judges in various multi-district litigations as a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) member, Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC) member, and as discovery and expert chair and committee member. Now, as co-lead counsel of the Talcum Powder Products litigation, she is fulfilling the purpose she set out to achieve.
“Each day I am inspired by the courage and strength of the women we represent,” said Ms. Parfitt, when asked about why she fought for these women. “If we can give [the plaintiffs a] voice and purge from society this type of corporate greed and conduct, then we will have succeeded.”
Our team at Ashcraft & Gerel is proud to call Ms. Parfitt a team member and friend. Her immense dedication to finding justice for her clients is an inspiration for us all. She represents the ideals all in our firm strive to deliver.