Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talcum powder products, including Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, causes ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene. At trial, a Missouri jury heard expert witness testimony from a Harvard epidemiologist who says that talcum powder caused the plaintiff to develop ovarian tumors.
The product liability attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over allegedly defective or dangerous products. The firm, which regularly provides talcum powder lawsuit updates, continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit.
According to Law360, Dr. Daniel Cramer testified on the 10th day of trial. The Harvard epidemiologist told jurors that he has concluded with “medical and scientific certainty” that the plaintiff developed ovarian cancer mostly due to using talcum powder every day for 40 years. The case is the fifth to go to trial in Missouri. The plaintiff names both J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc America as defendants.
At least 3,100 product liability lawsuits have been filed against J&J over talcum powder, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) created a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for J&J talcum powder ovarian cancer claims. Cases are centralized to the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. As of Feb. 15, 2017, court records show, there were 134 cases in the MDL.
The JPML creates MDLs when there are a significant number of lawsuits with common factual allegations. These lawsuits are grouped together in one court before one judge, making the legal process more efficient. Consolidation moves the litigation along faster because it streamlines legal proceedings; for example, the discovery process only needs to take place once instead of for every lawsuit, freeing up court time and resources.
Lawsuits allege that using talcum powder regularly in the genital region contributes to ovarian cancer, and that J&J failed to warn of the risks. Plaintiffs cite studies that have suggested a link since the 1970s.
St. Louis state court has seen most of the talcum powder litigation so far. Three separate juries handed down multimillion dollar verdicts to plaintiffs in 2016.
One recently filed talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit named J&J and Walgreens as defendants. The plaintiff, a Chicago woman, alleges, “J&J has a dedicated office and team specifically devoted to assessing, analyzing and promoting product purchases from its baby product line at Walgreens,”
“From offices in Illinois, J&J and Walgreens jointly analyze, assess, and strategize the most meaningful methods of selling, promoting and marketing its baby powder products. Moreover, J & J and Walgreens implement strategies to influence consumers’ purchase of J&J baby powder products from Walgreens, including through data analytics of customers’ purchases and loyalty and rewards programs,”
Talcum powder is primarily composed of talc, a mineral made of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Due to its chemical properties, talcum powder absorbs excess moisture and reduces friction. Many cosmetic and personal hygiene products contain talcum powder, including baby powder and adult facial and body powders. Some women also use it in the genital region or on sanitary napkins for feminine hygiene.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Verdicts
Plaintiffs suing over talcum powder allege that using talcum powder regularly in the genital region increases the risk of ovarian cancer. J&J is accused of failing to disclose this risk to consumers. To support their claims, plaintiffs refer to various studies. For example, in 1971 researchers noted the presence of talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors. In 1982, a study by Harvard researchers suggested that use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene may be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs allege that J&J should have notified consumers of the risk based on these studies.
Researchers continue to study the relationship between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. One recent study was published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis, a type of study that uses data from previous studies to identify a common effect. Overall, the study noted a small, but statistically significant link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
Parker Waichman notes that talcum powder plaintiffs won three multimillion dollar verdicts in 2016. In February, jurors awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, allegedly due to talcum powder use. Another talcum powder plaintiff was awarded $55 million in May.
The most recent verdict totaled $70 million. The plaintiff is a California woman who used talcum powder for over 45 years. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, and alleges that using talcum powder for feminine hygiene is to blame.
The verdict consisted of $65 million in punitive damages. The case also marks the first-time J&J’s talc supplier faced a financial penalty in a talcum powder ovarian cancer claim. The jury ordered the company to pay $2.3 million in punitive damages.
Juries can choose to award punitive damages if they believe that the liable party’s actions were egregious in some way. Punitive damages are an extra form of punishment. In deciding to hand down the $70 million verdict, one juror commented to Bloomberg, “It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention,”
“It seemed like they didn’t care.”
Most talcum powder claims against J&J were filed individually, meaning one complaint represents a single plaintiff. According to court documents, however, class action lawsuits have also been filed. In a class action lawsuit, one complaint represents a class of plaintiffs against a common defendant. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff class has been wronged by the defendant in the same manner.
According to court documents, a talcum powder ovarian cancer class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 81 plaintiffs. The complaint alleges that ovarian cancer is caused by 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.”