A jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million to a woman who filed suit alleging that she developed ovarian cancer from using its baby powder on a regular basis for feminine hygiene.
The Talcum Powder Lawsuit
The lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson claimed that the company’s talcum powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly to the genital area. The plaintiff asserted that she used Johnson & Johnson baby powder on a daily basis from the 1950s until 2016. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
The plaintiff alleged that her cancer was the “proximate result of the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder.” She claimed that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder.
The Link Between Talcum Powder and Cancer
In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, although all talcum products for personal use in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s. The plaintiff began using talcum powder in the 1950s.
As part of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) focuses on identifying causes of cancer. IARC classifies the use of talc-based body powder in the genital area as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Noting that studies involving the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer have had mixed results, the American Cancer Society suggests that until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it.
Failure to Warn Argument Bolstered by Internal Documents
Internal documents were entered into evidence at trial that indicated Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks of the use of talc and link to ovarian cancer for decades – and failed to warn women of those risks.
The Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Verdict
The jury’s award included $68 million in compensatory damages and $340 million in punitive damages. The verdict was by far the largest awarded to date in the talcum powder lawsuits across the country.
Johnson & Johnson’s Reaction to the Verdict
Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company will appeal, and that scientific evidence supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder.
Other Talcum Powder Lawsuits and Verdicts
A jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded $110.5 million to a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 who claimed her illness was caused by her use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder-containing products for more than 40 years. Three other trials in St. Louis resulted in juries awarding damages of $72 million, $70.1 million and $55 million.
Another St. Louis jury rejected the claims of a Tennessee woman with ovarian and uterine cancer who asserted that her use of talcum powder caused her cancers.
Two cases in New Jersey, where Johnson & Johnson is headquartered, were dismissed when a judge found that the plaintiffs’ lawyers did not presented reliable evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer.
Similar lawsuits in hundreds of cases have been filed and are pending.