Johnson & Johnson is expected to face more talcum powder ovarian cancer claims, following a stunning defeat in the latest such lawsuit to go to trial. The verdict, which was rendered last month in Missouri state court, marked the second time this year that the company was ordered to pay significant financial damages in such a case.
“One blockbuster jury award can be written off as a fluke,” Nora Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford University law professor, told the Associated Press. “When you have two, it starts to look like a trend, and a very worrying one for Johnson & Johnson.”
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 1,200 talcum powder lawsuits, all of which allege that the regular, repeated application of Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower and similar products can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer in some women. While the company strongly disputes these claims, three juries have already found in favor of plaintiffs, though only two ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay financial compensation.
Plaintiffs involved in this litigation claim that evidence linking talc powder to ovarian cancer goes back as far as the 1970s. They allege that over time, talc particles can accumulate in a woman’s reproductive tract – including the ovaries – when talcum powder products are repeatedly applied to the genitals. This can purportedly lead to inflammation that encourages the growth of cancer cells.
Last month, a woman who used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products for nearly 40 years as part of her feminine hygiene routine was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages, along with another $50 million in punitive damages, from the St. Louis jury assigned to her case. In February, a separate Missouri jury awarded $72 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiffs in another talcum powder lawsuit involving the company.
Those two verdicts were the first time financial damages were awarded in talcum powder lawsuits. In 2013, a federal jury in South Dakota also found that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn plaintiffs about the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, no damages were awarded in that case.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdicts in the most recent cases, even as it faces more trials in the near future. In the meantime, it’s very likely that the publicity surrounding these two verdicts will prompt even more plaintiffs to become involved in the litigation. According to Reuters, law firms have since increased their talc powder advertising, with spending on TV commercials jumping from $16,000 in February to $865,000 in March.