Plaintiffs in the California talcum powder litigation are concerned that the coordinated pretrial proceedings will not allow the cases to proceed quickly enough for plaintiffs who are seriously ill with ovarian cancer.
In a group of more than 300 women who have filed lawsuits alleging their ovarian cancer is attributable to their use of talcum powder, two plaintiffs have already died of the disease, Consumer Advocacy News reports. Some plaintiffs are afraid they will not live long enough to see have their day in court with health care giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the maker of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder. Plaintiffs asked the judge to expedite their depositions to preserve their testimony should they succumb to the disease before trial.
Ovarian cancer is an aggressive cancer with a low survival rate. Plaintiffs want to insure the fight against J&J will continue even if they die. Nearly 60 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in stage three, where the five-year survival rate can be as low as 34 percent. Early symptoms of the disease are often mistaken for abdominal or menstrual discomfort, delaying diagnosis until the disease is in a later stage.
The women who have filed the lawsuits allege that Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder are responsible for their ovarian cancer. Legal documents 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 say they used talcum powder for decades before their cancer diagnosis, though some say they had used talcum powder for just a few years.
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 believe that when talc is applied to the genital area, small talc particles can migrate into the vagina and eventually to the ovaries. The talc particles cause inflammation, which is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
J&J is aggressively fighting talcum powder lawsuits. Lawyers for J&J have asked for a stay in the proceedings of a baby powder case scheduled for October in the state of Georgia. The plaintiff has been given a terminal diagnosis and her lawyers have argued against the stay because she might not live long enough to continue with her lawsuit. The Georgia judge did grant a stay in proceedings, but he ordered that the plaintiff’s deposition be taken immediately, according to Consumer Advocacy News.
J&J has also tried to postpone proceedings in the baby powder cancer trial underway in St. Louis. The company’s first motion to stay proceedings came one week before the trial, and the second occurred one week into the trial.
The first talcum powder cancer case went to trial in 2013. The jury in that case found J&J guilty of gross negligence for failing to warn women of the cancer risk, Consumer Advocacy News reports. Two talcum powder cases that went to trial in St. Louis this year resulted in jury awards of $55 million to a cancer survivor woman and $72 million to the family of a woman who died from the disease. J&J appealed the $55 million award but the court upheld the award.