Lawsuits Allege Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower Caused Cancer. Talcum powder litigation in Missouri has just been expanded to more plaintiffs. The Missouri Court of Appeals made its trial courts available to 1,350 talcum powder plaintiffs who live out-of-state. Plaintiffs allege that talcum powder products, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, caused ovarian cancer. Lawsuits allege that J&J failed to warn consumers about this risk.
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.
Johnson & Johnson motioned for the Missouri court to deny the jurisdiction of the 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis to hear talcum powder lawsuits from non-resident plaintiffs. Chief Judge Angela T. Quigless denied the motion without further comment, according to a one-page order dated Jan. 3, 2017. A talcum powder case is slated to begin trial in St. Louis on Feb. 6. The case involves 60 plaintiffs who allege that the talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer. Three large talcum powder verdicts were issued to plaintiffs in 2016. Lawsuits continue to mount against J&J.
Talcum powder is made of talc, a mineral composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Talcum powder absorbs excess moisture and reduces friction. Because of these qualities, it is a common ingredient in various cosmetic and personal products, such as baby powder. Some women also use talcum powder in the genital area, underwear or on sanitary napkins for feminine hygiene.
Lawsuits in the talcum powder litigation allege that use of talcum powder in the genital region can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Complaints allege that the fine talc particles can enter the female reproductive tract and accumulate in the ovaries, causing inflammation and other changes that allegedly promote cancer growth. Plaintiffs cite certain research findings to support their claims, including a 1971 study where researchers found talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors.
Studies on talcum powder and cancer have generally produced mixed results.
Large Verdicts Awarded to Talcum Powder Plaintiffs
In 2016, juries awarded three large verdicts to talcum powder plaintiffs. In February 2016, jurors returned a $72 million verdict to the family of a plaintiff who died due to ovarian cancer. The lawsuit filed on her behalf alleged that talcum powder use contributed to her cancer, and subsequent death. A second talcum powder verdict was issued in May; jurors awarded $55 million to the plaintiff.
The most recent talcum powder verdict was awarded in October. After hearing the case of a California woman who used talcum powder for 45 years, jurors handed down a verdict of $70 million, including $65 million in punitive damages. Juries award punitive damages as a form of punishment, when they feel the liable party’s actions warrant it. The jury also hit Talc America, the talc supplier, with a verdict. Jurors were told that the plaintiff had stage 4 ovarian cancer and had an eighty percent chance of dying in the next two years.
After hearing arguments at trial, jurors found that J&J failed to adequately warn consumers about findings allegedly linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer. “It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention,” one juror said to Bloomberg. “It seemed like they didn’t care.”
On Oct. 4, 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) created a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits. MDLs transfer similar lawsuits to one court before one judge. The goal is to make complex litigation more efficient by eliminating duplicate discovery and streamlining legal proceedings. In the talcum powder MDL, plaintiffs similarly allege that talcum powder contributed to cancer and that J&J failed to disclose this risk. According to the initial order, creating the MDL transferred 54 lawsuits. Unlike a class action lawsuit, where one lawsuit represents numerous plaintiffs, MDLs contain many lawsuits filed individually.
The first cases in a mass tort to go to trial are referred to as “bellwether cases“, which are selected to represent most of the litigation. 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.