Jury Awards $110 Million Verdict to Woman Who Used Talcum Powder for 40 Years
Johnson & Johnson lost its most recent talcum powder ovarian cancer trial in Missouri, as jurors returned a $110 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The lawsuit, like thousands of others pending against Johnson & Johnson, alleges that genital use of talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. The plaintiff used talcum powder products for feminine hygiene for 40 years. Talcum powder lawsuits allege that use of Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower contributed to ovarian cancer, and that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn of the risks. J&J was hit with three consecutive multimillion verdicts last year; jurors found for the company in the fourth trial.
The product liability attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over allegedly defective or dangerous products. The firm, which regularly provides talcum powder lawsuit updates, continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Virginia woman who used J&J talcum powder products in the genital region for 40 years. In August 2012, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She alleges that her cancer was caused by talc use and that J&J failed to warn of the risks. Talcum powder plaintiffs allege that the fine talc particles can travel up the female reproductive tract and accumulate in the ovaries, promoting changes that can cause cancer.
According to Law360, the jury found for the plaintiff on all claims, including conspiracy, breach of implied warranty and negligence. J&J, its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. unit and talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc. were all found liable.
Attorneys for the plaintiff called J&J’s actions “reprehensible”, and asked jurors to award punitive damages significant enough for the company to feel. Plaintiff’s attorneys said J&J should be punished not only for failing to warn about the risks, but also for pressuring regulators against informing the public. In considering punitive damages, jurors were reminded that J&J is a $70 billion company. To get a sense of how large that number is, $175 million makes up just one quarter of one percent of the company’s worth.
Punitive damages are awarded when jurors feel that that liable party’s actions warrant additional punishment. In this case, J&J was hit with $66 million in punitive damages. The jury awarded $39 million in punitive damages against J&J Consumer and $50,000 in punitive damages against Imerys. The plaintiff was also awarded $5.4 million in compensatory damages.
The jury determined the two J&J companies to be 99 percent at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries, and Imerys to be one percent at fault.
The trial lasted 17 days, during which time plaintiffs presented expert testimony from Dr. Daniel Cramer. The Harvard physician, who has published research on the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer use himself, said he concluded with “medical and scientific certainty” that using talcum powder in the genital region caused the plaintiff’s cancer.
Judge Rex Burlison presided over the case, which was the fifth talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit to go to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.
The previous talcum powder ovarian cancer case went to trial in March, with jurors finding for J&J. In 2016, J&J lost three consecutive talcum powder cases. Juries awarded verdicts of $72 million, $55 million and $70 million.
Parker Waichman notes that talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation continues to move forward. More talcum powder lawsuits are slated for trial in June and July, Law360 reports. Talcum powder litigation is also moving forward in California, with the first trial scheduled to begin in July.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit Background
According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), J&J is facing at least 3,100 talcum powder product liability lawsuits.
Talcum powder is composed of talc, a mineral containing magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Many personal hygiene and cosmetic products, such as body and facial powders, contain talcum powder because it absorbs excess moisture and reduces friction. Talcum powder is often used as a baby powder to prevent diaper rash. Talcum powder is also sometimes used as a feminine hygiene product when sprinkled on sanitary napkins, underwear or the genital region.
Lawsuits filed over talcum powder and ovarian cancer allege that the product causes ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs cite various studies published since the 1970s to support allegations, asserting that J&J should have disclosed this information on the product labeling.
Some talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits are consolidated as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has established a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for talcum powder ovarian cancer claims. Lawsuits are consolidated to the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. According to court records, the MDL contained 134 lawsuits as of Feb. 15, 2017. An MDL is a type of mass tort created when there are a significant number of lawsuits sharing common factual allegations. Transferring lawsuits into an MDL makes complex litigation more efficient because it centralizes similar lawsuits to one court before one judge, which streamlines the legal process and eliminates the need for duplicate discovery.
In the talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation, plaintiffs allege that genital use of talcum powder caused ovarian cancer and that J&J failed to warn consumers. Plaintiffs cite a number of studies in the talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation. For example, in 1971 researchers found talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors. Plaintiffs allege that J&J should have included the potential risk on the warning label so consumers could decide for themselves.
The European Journal of Cancer Prevention published a recent study on talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Researchers identified a small, but statistically significant link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. The study was a meta-analysis, meaning researchers used data from previously published studies to identify a common effect.
Most talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits were filed individually. However, court records indicate that J&J is facing class action lawsuits as well. One class action represents 81 plaintiffs who allege that ovarian cancer is caused by “unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder and [Johnson & Johnson’s] wrongful and negligent conduct in the research, development, testing, manufacture, production, promotion, distribution, marketing, and sale of talcum powder.”
In a class action lawsuit, one complaint represents an entire group of plaintiffs against a common defendant. In a mass tort, lawsuits are filed individually but grouped together in court.
Questions about Talcum Powder Lawsuits?
If you or someone you know wants to learn more about filing a talcum powder lawsuit, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman today. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).