Talcum powder, a common ingredient in personal hygiene products, has been linked to life-threatening diseases and conditions, such as ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and respiratory complications. The connection to the these health risks has been suspected for decades, but no action was taken to protect consumers. The lack of any type of product warning sparked a surge of lawsuits resulting in 3 major verdicts in 2016, and thousands more in the legal system.
One of the largest pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson, is embroiled in class-action lawsuits for failing to warn about the risk of developing ovarian cancer while using talc-based powders, such as its flagship Johnson’s Baby Powder product.
Talcum Powder, Ovarian Cancer, and Liability
Talcum powder is used in some of the most common beauty and childcare products, such as baby powder, body powder, lotions, feminine hygiene products, and deodorants. For years, women applied talc-based powders to their private parts to ensure the absence of vaginal odors and to keep the groin area comfortable. Often used to stop chaffing, baby powder and other talc-based powders were used on undergarments, sanitary pads, diaphragms, and condoms.
The first connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer was discovered over 50 years ago when four obstetricians noted that talc particles were found in more than 75 percent of ovarian tumors that the team investigated. Tumors can form regardless of whether the powder was applied directly or indirectly. Based on research conducted over the last several decades, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has deemed talc to be a possible carcinogen for women.
Companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell talcum powder-based can be held liable for the development of ovarian cancer in women who use their products if no warnings are present
Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits
While the first evidence surfaced in 1971, it wasn’t until October of 2013 that a South Dakota woman named Deane Berg won the first of several thousand talc lawsuits brought against Johnson & Johnson. A federal jury found that the pharmaceutical giant’s baby powder product was a contributing factor in the development of Berg’s ovarian cancer, however, no criminal intent was proven, nor were any damages awarded. In fact, Berg was offered an out-of-court settlement of $1.3 Million, but she turned it down after refusing to sign a confidentiality clause.
In 2016, Johnson & Johnson was found liable in three prominent lawsuits for failing to warn consumers of the risk that its brand-name baby powder caused ovarian cancer. In each of these cases, the women involved used Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower Body Powder for years due to the company’s marketing of the product as safe and hygienic.
Recent Talcum Powder Verdicts
As of late 2016, there are more than 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson alone.
Jacqueline Fox ($72 million)
Jackie passed away from ovarian cancer in 2015. Her family was awarded $72 million dollars after Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of negligence. Fox was diagnosed with terminal cancer after using Johnson’s baby powder and other talc-based products for years. Fox’s case was the first to receive damages because the plaintiff produced internal documents proving that J&J knew about the evidence, and decided not to warn the public.
Gloria Ristesund ($55 million)
A jury in Missouri found Johnson & Johnson guilty after Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had been using products manufactured by the company on her genitals for decades as part of her regular feminine hygiene routine. Gloria received $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages due to her exposure.
Deborah Giannecchini ($70 million)
After using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for more than four decades, Deborah was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With a 20% chance of survival, she received $70 million dollars after a court in St. Louis found Johnson & Johnson guilty of ignoring studies linking its talc products to ovarian cancer and choosing not to warn customers about the risk.
Class Actions and Multidistrict Litigation
Class action lawsuits have been filed in both California and Illinois, covering thousands of defendants.
California Class Action
In April 2014, Mona Estrada filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, claiming that she had been buying Johnson’s Baby Powder since 1950. Mona, along with many other woman, had expected the product to be safe based on Johnson & Johnson’s marketing claims. She also claimed that a lack of a warning about the possibility of developing cancer on the label made the company liable for her ovarian cancer, to which talc has been linked.
Mona’s lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson has dragged on for several years, with the company filing multiple motions to dismiss it. In October 2016, the was transferred to a federal court in New Jersey to be part of the multidistrict litigation (MDL No. 2738) currently going through that court.
Illinois Class Action
Shortly after the Estrada lawsuit, another woman named Barbara Mihalich filed a class action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Her case was initially dismissed for failure to state a claim; however, Barbara filed an amended complaint alleging that she and other women faced a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer due to the use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products. The lawsuit cited studies as far back as the 1960s and claimed that the company knew about the potential health risks of their product, but never warned women about these dangers.
In October 2016, Barbara Mihalich’s case was transferred to MDL No. 2738 being administered by the District of New Jersey federal court, along with those who had signed onto the class action.
Most, if not all, talc lawsuits are currently being handled as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL cases are different from class action lawsuits in that the plaintiffs file individual claims, but they are all handled through the same district court to make the process more efficient. Such MDLs are often set up where there are (or are likely to be) many similar cases that may have some differences in the individual circumstances.
Talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson are being handled as part of MDL No. 2738, “In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products.” The Honorable Freda L. Wolfson and Lois H. Goodman are presiding over the case in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Other Companies Facing Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson is not the only company that is currently facing lawsuits pertaining to talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Other companies such as Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Wittaker Clark and Daniels have also faced lawsuits regarding their talcum powder products.
Cashmere Bouquet, which the company sold in 1995, was shown to contain traces of asbestos, which can lead to medical problems. In 2015, the company paid out at least one verdict worth $12.4 million, and there are dozens of other cases at various stages in progress.
Whittaker Clark and Daniels
Like the Colgate case, the products at the heart of these cases contained asbestos, which lead to the development of cancer in those who used it. In 2015-2016, the company was ordered to pay at least $28 million in damages to several defendants.
File a Talc Lawsuit
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and have a history of applying Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and/or Shower to Shower Body Powder to your genital area? If so, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
For generations, women have used talc-based powders due to the promise of cleanliness and lack of warning about the dangerous side effects. For women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the compensation can cover the costs of treatment and hold Johnson & Johnson responsible for their negligence about the potential risks of talcum powder.
A reputable and experienced lawyer will be able to help you determine whether or not your case is likely to result in a settlement or verdict. Learn more about your legal rights here.