Lawsuits Filed over Talc Products Containing Asbestos
Talc is a mineral mainly composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. In powder form, it absorbs excess moisture and reduces friction. Talcum powder is often used as baby powder to prevent diaper rashes, and in cosmetic items. Some women also use talcum powder products in the genital region or on sanitary napkins for feminine hygiene.
Parker Waichman LLP notes that personal injury lawsuits have been filed over talc and talcum powder products. The firm is offering free legal consultations to anyone with questions about filing a lawsuit.
According to the American Cancer Society, talc contains asbestos in its natural form. Asbestos is a carcinogen, a substance known to cause cancer. Specifically, inhaling asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly type of cancer that affects the membrane on most organs (mesothelium). Federal regulations have required talcum powder products to be asbestos-free since the 1970s.
There has been litigation involving talc products containing asbestos. A $7 million verdict was awarded to the family of a woman who died from mesothelioma. According to the lawsuit filed on her behalf, her cancer resulted from decades of asbestos exposure. Specifically, the suit says the woman was exposed during the 1960s and 70s when talcum distributor Whitaker Clark and Daniels sent talc shipments containing asbestos.
Last year, a jury awarded $13 million to a woman who was diagnosed with mesothelioma, allegedly due to Colgate-Palmolive Co.’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. The suit alleged that the talcum powder product contained asbestos. Colgate-Palmolive was apportioned 95 percent liability for its role in the design, manufacture or sale of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. The jury found that the manufacturers were negligent for designing a defective product, presenting consumers with a product containing an unidentifiable risk and failing to warn of a foreseeable and substantial danger.
In 2014, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health published a study showing that one particular brand of cosmetic talcum powder contained asbestos fibers. The authors wrote that the fibers were likely released through application of talcum powder. “Through many applications,” researchers said. “the deceased inhaled asbestos fibers, which then accumulated in [the] lungs and likely caused or contributed to [the diagnosis of] mesothelioma as well as [others] with the same scenario.”
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits and Verdicts
Parker Waichman notes that a growing number of lawsuits have been filed over talcum powder products alleging ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that products, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, can travel up the female reproductive tract and accumulate in the ovaries when used for feminine hygiene. The lawsuits allege J&J failed to warn of the risks. Three large talcum powder verdicts were issued this year.
Overall, research on the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer has produced mixed results.
According to court records, the first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit was filed against J&J in 2009. Since then, litigation has growth. More than 2,000 lawsuits have been filed alleging that talcum powder products such as baby powder led to ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs cite studies linking talc to ovarian cancer, and accuse J&J of failing to warn about the risks.
In February, jurors awarded a $72 million verdict to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. The lawsuit filed on her behalf alleged that the ovarian cancer resulted from using talcum powder in the genital region. A similar lawsuit resulted in a $55 million verdict this May.
Recently, a talcum powder ovarian cancer verdict was handed down in October. Jurors awarded $70 million to a California woman who used talcum powder for 45 years. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, and alleged that talcum powder use contributed to this condition. She accuses J&J of failing to label its talcum powder products with a cancer warning. During the trial, her attorneys told jurors 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. The jury also handed down a verdict against talc supplier Talc America. The company was ordered to pay $2.3 million in punitive damages. 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.”
Juries award punitive damages as a form of punishment against the liable party, with hopes that this will discourage similar activities from occurring in the future.
Johnson & Johnson maintains that its talcum powder products are safe for feminine hygiene use.
During the most recent trial, jurors heard an expert witness testimony from a man who runs a compliance consulting firm for over-the-counter drugs and cosmetic products. He testified that J&J’s talcum powder should have carried a cancer warning since 1982, citing a study published that year linking talcum powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
In addition to the 1982 study, plaintiffs also cite findings from 1971 where researchers found talc embedded in ovarian tumors.
On Oct. 4, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) transferred talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDLs are formed in order to make legal proceedings more efficient and streamline the process. Lawsuits in an MDL have similar allegations. For the talcum powder MDL, plaintiffs similarly allege that talcum powder contributed to ovarian cancer and J&J failed to disclose the risks. According to the initial order, the MDL creation transferred 54 talcum powder lawsuits.
Bellwether cases are the first lawsuits in a group litigation to be heard by jurors. These cases are used to predict how the remaining litigation will play out; as such, they are viewed as a type of test case. For instance, if juries continue to award large verdicts, companies may be more inclined to settle lawsuits instead of letting the cases reach trial.
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).