Talcum Powder Lawsuits Continue to Mount Following $70M Verdict

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

J&J Faces More Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson is continuing to face lawsuits alleging that its talcum powder products, such as its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, led to ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that J&J concealed the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Three talcum powder verdicts were issued this year, the most recent of which totaled $70 million.

Parker Waichman LLP personal injury attorneys keep up-to-date with talcum powder litigation and other product liability litigations. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a talcum powder lawsuit.

Parker Waichman notes that the litigation continues to grow. According to Q13 Fox, four families in Washington and Oregon recently filed talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. The suits represent women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene for years. They were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, allegedly due to talcum powder use. The cases were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. One of the plaintiffs is a woman from Multnomah County, Oregon. Like other plaintiffs, she used talcum powder in the genital region for decades and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2008. She died in February 2015. The lawsuit filed on her behalf alleges J&J should have placed a cancer warning on its talcum powder products.

Talcum powder contains talc, a mineral that is mostly composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. It is used in many cosmetic and personal products because it absorbs excess moisture and reduces friction. Thus, it helps keep skin dry and prevents rashes.

Plaintiffs in the talcum powder litigation allege that the fine talc particles can reach the ovaries by traveling up the female reproductive tract. Lawsuits allege that the particles can accumulate in the ovaries and increase the risk of cancer. Plaintiffs cite studies linking talcum powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and allege that J&J should have warned consumers about this information. In general, studies on talcum powder and ovarian cancer have produced mixed results. One of the studies cited by plaintiffs dates back to 1971, where researchers document talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors.

Johnson & Johnson says its talcum powder products are safe and do not cause cancer.

Talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits began in 2009, when the first suit was filed. Now, court records show that more than 2,000 lawsuits allege that talcum powder use in the genital region contributed to ovarian cancer.

Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Verdicts

Talcum powder litigation has gained more attention in light of three large verdicts issued this year. The first talcum powder ovarian cancer verdict was issued in February. Jurors ordered J&J to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. In May, a $55 million verdict was issued to a talcum powder plaintiff.
In October, another jury handed down a verdict of $70 million. The plaintiff was a California woman who was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for 45 years. The jury was told that she has an eighty percent chance of dying in the next two years. The verdict consisted of $65 million in punitive damages and 90 percent of about $2.5 million in compensatory damages. For the first time, a verdict was also issued against talc supplier Talc America. The jury handed down $2.3 million in punitive damages.

Punitive damages are a form of punishment. The jury awards these damages when it feels that the liable parties action warrants additional compensation. The goal of punitive damages is to discourage the defendant and others from engaging in similar activities.

At trial, jurors heard an expert witness testify on behalf of the plaintiffs. The witness, who runs a compliance consulting firm for over-the-counter drugs and cosmetic products, said that J&J’s talcum powder should have carried a warning since 1982, citing a study published that year suggesting talcum powder was linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. He also took issue with how J&J handled the idea of future studies on talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Referring to 1994 documents showing the company wanted the government to fund the research, he said “If you want to be self-regulated, step up to the plate and pay for the studies,” according to Law360. “If you don’t want to be self-regulated, then have the taxpayers pay for it. I don’t think you can have it both ways.”

In issuing the verdict, the jury found that J&J did not adequately warn consumers. “It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention,” one juror said to Bloomberg. “It seemed like they didn’t care.”

Federal talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits were transferred into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), which was established on Oct. 4. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) creates MDLs when there are lawsuits with similar allegations. Consolidating these cases to one court before one judge streamlines the legal process and eliminates duplicate discovery. Overall, the goal is to make complex litigation faster and more efficient. Plaintiffs in the talcum powder MDL commonly allege that talcum powder contributed to ovarian cancer and J&J failed to disclose the risks. The MDL creation transferred 54 talcum powder claims, the initial order shows.
MDLs are different from a class action lawsuit, where there are numerous plaintiffs for one lawsuit. Lawsuits remain separate in an MDL.

The first several cases selected for trial in an MDL are known as “bellwether cases”. These cases are considered test cases, where parties get to try out their arguments in court for the first time. The outcome of bellwether cases can impact the remaining litigation. For instance, if juries continue to award large verdicts, companies may be more inclined to settle lawsuits instead of letting the cases go to court.

According to court documents, a large talcum powder lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of 81 plaintiffs. As with other talcum powder lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege that use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene led to ovarian cancer and that J&J knew or should have known about these risks but failed to warn consumers. The suit alleges that the cancer resulted from the “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.”

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).