The company tried to postpone the baby powder cancer trial now underway in St. Louis, but the presiding judge made it clear the trial will proceed to a resolution, Consumer Advocacy News reports.
One week before jury selection began, J&J moved to move the case from state court to federal court, which would have delayed the case for at least several months. But the judge denied J&J’s motion. One week into trial proceedings, J&J filed a motion for mistrial. The company also tried additional transfer motions, but both were denied.
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. The lawsuits include wrongful death lawsuits from the families of women who have died of the disease, Top Class Actions reports.
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 inflammatory responses and inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier has put a cancer warning on the talc it supplies, but J&J does not include a warning on the talcum powders it sells to consumer. Baby Powder does carry a warning not to let the baby inhale the powder because it may cause respiratory problems, but there is no ovarian cancer warning.
Women from across the country regularly used talcum powder as part of their daily feminine hygiene routine, and Johnson & Johnson advertising used to encourage this use. They would apply Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower powder directly to the genital area or they would sprinkle the powder on their underwear or on sanitary napkins. Many of the plaintiffs say they used talcum powder for decades before their ovarian cancer diagnosis, though some say they had used talcum powder for just a few years.
The first talcum powder cancer case went to trial in 2013, and the jury found J&J guilty of gross negligence for failing to warn women of the cancer risk, Consumer Advocacy News reports. Two talcum powder cases went to trial in St. Louis this year and both resulted in jury awards for the plaintiffs. One jury awarded $55 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer; another jury awarded $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.
Legal experts say that if the trial now underway ends with another multimillion-dollar award to the plaintiff, Johnson & Johnson might consider settling the remaining lawsuits. Testimony in the trial is expected to take one to two more weeks before the case goes to the jury.
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