On October 27, a jury in St. Louis hit Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier with a $70 million verdict in a lawsuit filed by a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene.
This is the third large verdict against J&J in the talc litigation, Law360 reports. The jury determined that the plaintiff is owed $575,000 in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic compensatory damages. In addition, they said that J&J should pay $65 million in punitive damages, and the talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc. should pay $2.5 million.
The verdict is far less than the $285 million the plaintiff had asked for, but this award is among the highest awarded in cases against J&J over the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Earlier this year, another St. Louis jury awarded a plaintiff $72 million to a woman with ovarian cancer.
The plaintiff in this case has Stage 4 cancer. Her attorney said she had her spleen, part of her stomach, part of her colon, her ovaries and her uterus removed.
In closing arguments, the woman’s attorney told the jury the company callously joked about the possible cancer link and falsified medical records to hide the link. He said a massive verdict is necessary to force “the largest corporation in the world” to change its ways. He also said the company has rigged regulatory agencies in their favor, according to Law360.
During the trial, the attorney told the jury that J&J’s internal documents showed that the company had prepared “a question and answer” sheet, in anticipation of to prepare for questions from plaintiff’s attorneys. The attorney said that at least since 1982 J&J had been urged to add warnings labels to its talcum powder products. Plaintiffs’ cases have alleged that studies dating back as far as 1971 suggest that talcum powder used as a feminine hygiene product can lead to the development of ovarian cancer. Scientists explain that talc particles can migrate into the vagina and eventually to the ovaries, causing inflammation, which is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
Ovarian cancer is an aggressive cancer with a low survival rates. Early symptoms are vague and can be dismissed as menstrual or abdominal discomfort. The disease is often not diagnosed until later stages, when it is harder to treat.
Legal documents in talcum powder cases indicate that the women used talcum power regularly for feminine hygiene, applying the powder directly to their genitals or sprinkling powder on their underwear or sanitary pads. Many of the plaintiffs used talcum powder for decades before their cancer diagnoses.
Shortly after the verdict was handed down, J&J announced on its website that it intends to appeal the verdict. The company cited a New Jersey state judge’s decision in September to toss out two similar lawsuits for insufficient scientific evidence of the cancer link. “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” the company said in the statement.