Talcum Powder Lawsuit

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Thousands of women have filed talcum powder lawsuits. They claim baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. Manufacturers like Johnson and Johnson (J&J) have been named in these lawsuits. Evidence shows J&J knew their talc contained cancer-causing asbestos for years. Thus far, several large verdicts have ruled against J&J.

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Why Are People Filing Talcum Powder Lawsuits?

Talcum powder lawsuits pending against Johnson & JohnsonJohnson & Johnson Q2 2019 10-Q

Talc products have been in the news recently for two reasons:

  1. J&J announced its plan to stop sales of all talc products in North America.
  2. Several verdicts have recently awarded large sums of money to people harmed by talcum powder.

In a recent statement, J&J cited several factors in its decision to stop selling talc in North America. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic contributed. The company also blamed declining demand.

Despite halting sales of its talc-based baby powder, the company still faces related lawsuits. At the heart of these cases are women who developed ovarian cancer after using talc products. Many of them used products like Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower Body Powder for years.

The scientific evidence to suggest a link between talcum powder and the risk of ovarian cancer is disputed, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally considers cosmetic-grade talc to be safe. According to internal records, however, 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 risk of cancer when using talcum products on or near their genital area.

What Talc Products Are Involved in Lawsuits?

Johnson's Baby Powder has been a household staple for over a century as a dependable product for 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 newer product developed by Johnson & Johnson about 50 years ago. The company continued marketing Shower-to-Shower products to women for daily use under the slogan, "A sprinkle a day keeps odor away," despite knowing about the research on a possible connection between talc and cancer.

Talcum powder products marketed by other companies have also been at issue in some lawsuits, including Colgate-Palmolive's Cashmere Boutique (which is no longer manufactured) and talc products made by Whittaker, Clark & Daniels. However, Johnson & Johnson's products are significantly more popular, and many more lawsuits have been filed against the large consumer products brand than other companies.

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 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 lawsuit claims, Johnson & Johnson began a campaign in September 1971 to undermine this initial study.

Since then, many scientists have tried to identify what role, if any, talc plays in the development of ovarian cancer. 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 the 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 a dispute over the relationship between talc and ovarian cancer risk, the fact that Johnson & Johnson knew about a possible link can be enough to hold the company liable in some courts.

Talcum Powder, Asbestos and Ovarian Cancer

Reuters published a lengthy exposé in late 2018 detailing Johnson & Johnson's misdeeds in regard to their talcum powder products. According to internal documents, J&J was aware of asbestos contamination in their talcum powder as early as the 1950s.

At the time, asbestos was not considered carcinogenic or harmful to human health. By the late 70s, a physician executive at the pharmaceutical giant had sounded the alarm. He warned J&J that they could become involved in lawsuits related to certain types of cancer "attributed to inhalation of our powder formulations." Currently, the American Cancer Society notes that both forms of asbestos found in Johnson and Johnson talcum powder reports have been linked with cancer.

Despite evidence of attempted cover-ups involving manipulation of both scientific studies and federal regulations, Johnson and Johnson claim their baby powder is and has been asbestos-free. Only time will tell how this new information will affect the outcome of the thousands of pending talcum powder lawsuits.

Talcum Powder Class Actions and Lawsuits

As of June 2020, no class action talcum powder lawsuits have been filed. But, more than 27,000 talcum powder lawsuits have been consolidated via multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL 2738 is overseen by Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the Federal District of New Jersey. Many individual talc lawsuits are also underway in state courts.

Talcum Powder MDL 2738 News

April 2020: J&J attorneys moved to exclude 22 scientific experts from testifying before the court. Judge Wolfson ruled against J&J on three of the 22 experts. This means the plaintiffs can present testimony from these three witnesses. They are expected to present evidence of a link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder. The court has not yet scheduled initial trials in this MDL.

Talcum Powder Settlements and Verdicts

To date, there have been several verdicts that have favored plaintiffs. Until recently, Johnson & Johnson and other defendants (such as Imerys Talc, J&J's primary talc provider) have been unwilling to settle the cases. Lawyers from J&J broke that trend in early 2019, settling three mesothelioma lawsuits related to their talcum powder in just one week.

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 verdict ultimately favored Berg, she was not awarded any damages.

Talcum Powder Verdicts

Since 2013, there have been several high-profile trials deciding if talc causes ovarian cancer. At least six verdicts have come from Missouri courts, while the largest verdict arose from a Los Angeles jury court in August 2017. Six of these verdicts have gone in favor of the plaintiffs, with five resulting in awards totaling over $724 million. Thousands of suits are still awaiting trials. Below are overviews of a few notable cases.

22 Women in Missouri ($4.69 billion, July 2018): Amounting to approximately $213.2 million per person, a Missouri jury decided that Johnson & Johnson was liable for causing the ovarian cancer of 22 women as a result of asbestos contamination in its talc products. J&J is appealing the verdict, given that 17 of the women in the case lived outside of Missouri, relying on a 2017 Supreme Court ruling in a Plavix lawsuit that limits the jurisdiction of state courts to oversee cases brought by out-of-state plaintiffs.


Eva Echeverria ($417 million, August 2017): The largest individual talc verdict to date, the California jury awarded her more than double the amount requested in the complaint. However, the ovarian cancer lawsuit 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 individual 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. Note: In October 2019, an appeals court overturned the $110.4 million verdict due to a jurisdiction discrepancy.


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 in damages after a court in St. Louis jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence.


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.


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.


Talcum Powder Lawsuit FAQs

Am I Eligible to File a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?

Women who have used talcum powder products for years, especially on or near their genitals, and who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer may be able to file a lawsuit related to their diagnosis. Laws and deadlines vary by state, so it's important to begin the legal process promptly.

What Compensation Can I Receive for a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?

Compensation in talcum powder lawsuits can vary widely based on each individual case. So far, there have been no settlements, meaning that the only compensation available to this point has been jury awards. Damages in talcum powder trials can be awarded for some or all of the following things:

  • Medical costs incurred due to the cancer, including diagnostic tests, treatments, and follow-up care
  • Other costs related to treatment, such as travel to and from a specialist
  • Lost income due to the inability to work for the person diagnosed and/or their caretaker
  • Pain and suffering caused by the condition
  • Funeral costs for individuals who passed away from the disease

How Can I Pay for a Talcum Powder Lawyer?

Because cancer patients are generally already paying a great deal in treatment costs, most talcum powder lawsuits use a contingency agreement. This allows people to forgo any upfront legal costs and only requires people to pay legal fees in the event that they win compensation either through a settlement or verdict.

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