Written on behalf of Brian Kabateck
July 20, 2018
A St. Louis jury awarded 22 plaintiffs $4.69 billion in the latest verdict involving Johnson and Johnson-brand baby powder. The jury awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages in a case where the plaintiffs claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by using J&J baby powder as a part of their daily feminine hygiene routine.
This most recent verdict follows several eight and nine-figure verdicts in St. Louis, New Jersey and Los Angeles against J&J. In 2017, juries awarded more than $900 million in verdicts against J&J in lawsuits alleging their baby powder contained toxic elements which they knew about decades prior. In Los Angeles, a jury awarded $417 million, alleging that talc caused a woman’s ovarian cancer. Other lawsuits, mostly located in St. Louis, claim that the baby powder contained both talc and asbestos. Women who used the product on a daily basis claim that the prolonged use of the product in their underwear to combat moisture and odor allowed the toxic substances to travel up the vaginal cavity to the ovaries, ultimately causing cancer.
The pharmaceutical giant lost seven out of ten verdicts in 2017, although two of the verdicts were later overturned by judges. J&J will surely appeal this latest verdict, but the hits keep coming as jury after jury continues to believe the science claiming the company’s baby powder contained cancer-causing agents. In fact, three of the top ten verdicts of 2017 were against J&J in talc-related lawsuits.
According to a CNN report, “Doctors have noticed that talc particles have been in cancer tumors for decades, but it’s been unclear how the contamination happened and if it led to the cancer.” While about a dozen of these cases have gone to trial, there are thousands more across the country on behalf of women who developed either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after exposure to talcum powder products. One of the issues in the J&J trial in Los Angeles was labeling, as J&J products never contained any warnings on the bottles even when various health organizations around the world stated that talc was a possible carcinogen.
The juries in these cases face a variety of challenges in making their decisions. On the one hand, there are thousands of women who are suffering from, dying from or who have already died from ovarian cancer and/or mesothelioma. On the other side, J&J attorneys are lining up scientists, doctors and researchers claiming that talc could not have caused these illnesses. The plaintiffs also have science-based testimony and evidence; that, plus the emotional factor of the women who are literally dying while the trials continue has seemed to be the tipping point.
This will surely be an ongoing story as there is no end in sight either to the number of plaintiffs claiming talc gave them cancer or to J&J’s willingness to litigate these cases in court.