2018 Talcum Powder Lawsuit News: On January 29, 2018, opening statements began for the first talcum powder trial in New Jersey state courts. New Jersey is home to Johnson & Johnson, which is currently battling more than 5,500 lawsuits in state and federal courts over the question of whether talc-based products like Shower-to-Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder cause ovarian cancer. The case is Lanzo v. Cyprus Amex Minerals Co, et al., docket L00738516 in Middlesex County Superior Court.
Thousands of women have filed talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other companies, claiming that baby powder and other talc-based products have caused their ovarian cancer. While medical researchers are still studying the link between talc and cancer, several juries have held J&J responsible and ordered the company to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.
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Why Are People Filing Talcum Powder Lawsuits?
Talc products have been in the news recently because of big-money verdicts against Johnson & Johnson. At the heart of these cases are women who developed ovarian cancer after using talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower Body regularly for many years.
The scientific evidence for a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is disputed, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally considers cosmetic-grade talc safe. According to internal records, though, J&J knew about the potential connection between genital talcum powder use and cancer more than 40 years ago. Instead of informing consumers about the possible relationship, however, the company refused to add a warning to talc product packaging or change its formula to use safer ingredients, such as cornstarch.
Now, thousands of women are suing the corporation, claiming the company had a duty to inform them about an increased cancer risk when using talc on or near their genitals.
Evidence for a Link Between Talc and Cancer
There is a significant association between the use of talc in genital hygiene and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer that…warrants more formal public health warnings.International Journal of Cancer
Over the last five decades, nearly 40 peer-reviewed papers have been published in medical journals studying a potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The first of these, published in 1971 in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth, was a small study revealing that talc particles had been found in 75% of the ovarian and cervical tumors removed from 13 different women. According to court documents, in September 1971, Johnson & Johnson began a campaign to undermine this initial study.
Since then, many scientists have tried to identify the precise role of talc in the development of ovarian cancer. While each study should be assessed on its own merits, it’s worth noting that 22 of 36 studies have indicated a positive or possible link between talc and ovarian cancer. Several other reports that failed to find a link nonetheless suggested that further study would be necessary.
The two most recent large-scale meta-analyses both indicate a statistical link between talc and ovarian cancer:
- A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention discovered a “weak but statistically significant association between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer” – although it also noted that there were problems with differences between the studies analyzed that could have affected results.
- A 2018 study published in Epidemiology reported “a consistent association between perineal talc use and ovarian cancer,” with some variation based on type of study and ovarian cancer subtype.
Legally speaking, companies can be held liable for marketing defects, such as a failure to warn consumers about potential injuries when using their products. This means that, despite dispute over the relationship between talc and ovarian cancer, the fact that Johnson & Johnson knew about a possible link is enough to hold the company liable for failing to warn consumers about potential risks of using their products.
Pain and Suffering
The most common claim in talcum powder lawsuits is that women who developed ovarian cancer after long-term use of talc products were subjected to undue pain and suffering. This pain and suffering could have been avoided, plaintiffs argue, if Johnson & Johnson had only added a warning to their Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower brand products.
While the company maintains that its talc-based products are safe, internal documents have shown that officials were aware of the potential risks and deliberately decided against adding a warning to the product label. A memo from 1997 shows that J&J knew about the increased risk of “hygienic” talcum powder use, and an earlier memo mentions health-related objections to talc because of “cancer linkage” – even as the company was increasing its baby powder marketing efforts to African-American and Hispanic women.
Given the painful and debilitating nature of ovarian cancer, as well as the often unpleasant side effects of cancer treatments, many legal complaints argue that Johnson & Johnson was negligent in its duty to warn consumers about using talcum powder on their genital area. Several juries have agreed that such a warning should have been provided, resulting in multimillion dollar verdicts for women who suffered from the deadly disease.
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Medical Bills and Other Costs
In addition to severe pain and suffering, the cost of treating ovarian cancer can be extremely high – as much as $82,324 for just treatment alone in the first year. Add to that travel expenses to visit medical centers, lost income, and even funeral expenses for those who do not survive, and the financial burden begins to soar for victims of ovarian cancer and their families.
Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson often include a request for compensation to cover these expenses that victims otherwise would not have had to pay. If the individual is still alive, it may include a request for future medical expenses, as well. This is especially important for bills and secondary expenses that are not covered by medical insurance.
Expenses Claimed in Talcum Powder Lawsuits
- Imaging scans (X-ray, CT, MRI, PET)
- Blood tests and assays
- Radiation therapy
- Surgical procedures
- Pain prescriptions
- Travel to cancer centers
- In-home health care
- Facility care (nursing home, hospice)
- Funeral and burial
- Lost income
- Legal representation
- Court fees
Punitive Damages for Talc Cancer
Receiving compensation for actual pain and suffering and expenses related to an ovarian cancer diagnosis are often the foremost thing on plaintiffs’ minds. However, it is also important to make companies take responsibility for their actions or negligence. That’s where punitive damages (also called compensatory damages) come in.
Most talc-related legal complaints include a request for punitive damages, and so far every case decided in favor of the plaintiff has included substantial awards to penalize Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc (the supplier of talc used in J&J products).
Of $725 million awarded by juries to talcum powder lawsuit plaintiffs, more than $630 million has been awarded as punitive damages.
Talcum Powder Settlements and Verdicts
In general, those who file talcum powder lawsuits can receive compensation in one of two ways:
- Verdicts awarded by a jury decision after taking a case to trial.
- Settlements agreed upon by both sides of the suit, which usually include monetary compensation and other conditions.
To date, there have been several verdicts that have favored plaintiffs. However, there have not yet been any talcum powder settlements.
Why Are There No Talcum Powder Settlements?
In short, there have been no settlements in talcum powder lawsuits yet because Johnson & Johnson and other defendants have largely been unwilling to settle the cases. The company continues to claim that its talc products are harmless, and rather than trying to resolve outstanding cases with a settlement, they are aggressively defending that position.
The current situation was not always the case, though. In the very first talcum powder lawsuit, filed in 2009, J&J offered plaintiff Deane Berg $1.3 million to settle out of court. However, upon learning that the settlement came with a confidentiality clause, the ovarian cancer survivor decided to reject the settlement and make sure others knew about the dangers posed by perineal use of talc instead. Unfortunately, although the jury ultimately ruled in favor of Berg, she was not awarded any damages.
Talcum Powder Verdicts
Since 2013, there have been 9 high-profile trials deciding if talc causes ovarian cancer. So far, 6 verdicts have come from Missouri courts, while the largest arose from a Los Angeles jury court in August 2017. Six of verdicts have gone in favor of the plaintiffs, with five resulting in awards totaling over $724 million. Thousands of suits are still awaiting trials.
Talcum Powder Verdicts with Jury Awards
|Eva Echeverria ($417 million, August 2017)|
The largest individual talc verdict to date, the Los Angeles jury awarded her more than double the amount requested in the complaint. However, the verdict was later overturned by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, and is currently under appeal.
|Lois Slemp ($110.4 million, May 2017)|
The largest verdict out of Missouri was awarded to Slemp just two months after Johnson & Johnson won its first trial, marking the fifth unfavorable verdict against the company. Slemp’s verdict was later upheld on appeal to the 22nd District Court.
|Deborah Giannecchini ($70 million, October 2016)|
After using Johnson’s baby powder for feminine hygiene for more than four decades, Giannecchini was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was awarded $70 million dollars after a court in St. Louis jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence.
|Gloria Ristesund ($55 million, May 2016)|
A jury in Missouri found Johnson & Johnson guilty after Ristesund, who used the company’s products for decades, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
|Jackie Fox ($72 million, February 2016)|
Fox was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away in 2015 after using Johnson’s baby powder for years. Her family was awarded $72 million dollars when her attorneys proved that Johnson & Johnson knew about studies linking its products to ovarian cancer and failed to warn customers about possible dangers.
In addition, the following cases resulted in no damages for the plaintiffs:
- Nora Daniels (March 2017)
- Barbara Mihalich (May 2014)
- Mona Estrada (April 2014)
- Deane Berg (November 2013)
Can I File a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
If you believe that your ovarian cancer diagnosis might have been caused by using talcum powder products, we can connect you with a lawyer to answer your questions for free. Laws vary by state, so it’s important to talk with someone right away to make sure you do not miss the filing deadline.
What Talc Products Are Involved?
Johnson’s Baby Powder has been a staple in diaper bags and medicine cabinets for over a century to treat diaper rash and vaginal odors. Because of its long use, brand recognition, and marketing specifically for “feminine hygiene” uses, J&J’s flagship talc product is at the heart of many talcum powder lawsuits.
Shower-to-Shower Body Powder is a somewhat more recent product developed by Johnson & Johnson, although it has been around for nearly 50 years. The company continued marketing the product to women for daily use under the slogan, “A sprinkle a day keeps odor away,” despite knowing about the research on cancer and talc.
Note that talcum powder products marketed by other companies have also been at issue in some lawsuits. Examples include Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Boutique (which is no longer manufactured) and talc products made by Whittaker, Clark & Daniels.
Types of Talcum Powder Lawsuits
According to financial filings by Johnson & Johnson, the company is facing approximately 5,500 lawsuits related to its talcum powder lineup. Some of these cases are filed in state courts in California, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, although many cases have also been transferred to federal courts as part of MDL 2738 in the District of New Jersey.
Multidistrict litigation (MDL) allows complex cases from across the country with the same or very similar complaints to be handled by a single district court. MDLs have an established process for how claims are filed, followed by review by justices familiar with the complexities of these cases. In December 2014, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established MDL No. 2592 in the Eastern District of Louisiana to handle claims against Xarelto.
Class action talcum powder lawsuits have also been filed in some states, though most of these have either been transferred to MDL 2738 or otherwise closed down. For example, Mona Estrada first filed her class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in 2014, but her case was transferred to MDL status along with other class members in 2016. Barbara Mihalich is another woman who filed a class action lawsuit against J&J, but her case was eventually dismissed because she had not actually been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Do I Need a Talcum Powder Lawyer?
If you or close female relative has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower Body Powder, or other talc-based products for many years, it’s important to understand your legal rights. Talking to a reputable talcum powder lawyer is the best way to determine whether you may be able to receive compensation for your diagnosis.
Consumer products companies like Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive and Whittaker, Clark & Daniels generate huge profits every year, allowing them to hire top attorneys to fight legitimate claims. Working with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of talcum powder litigation will give you the best chance of getting a favorable verdict or settlement.
Important: Talk to an attorney soon after your ovarian cancer diagnosis. Every state has different deadlines and statutes of limitations, and you could miss out if you wait too long to file a claim.