Johnson & Johnson, which found itself on the losing end of two high-profile talcum powder lawsuits earlier this year, has promised to appeal the massive verdicts rendered in those cases. According to a report published by Legal NewsLine, the company insists that plaintiffs’ lawyers “deliberately” created confusion regarding the science of talc during those two Missouri trials.
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more 1,200 product liability claims involving the alleged association between the genital application of talc powder products, including Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, and ovarian cancer. Many of those claims have been centralized in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis, where two trials were convened earlier this year.
The first trial concluded in February, after a jury awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who blamed her death from ovarian cancer on those talc-based products. According to her family’s lawsuit, the decedent had used the company’s talc powders for over 30 years as part of her daily feminine hygiene routine. She passed away last October, less than three years after her diagnosis. The jury in her case deliberated for less than five hours before awarding her family $10 million in compensatory damages, along with $62 million in punitive damages.
In April, a second Missouri jury awarded $55 million in damages ($5 million compensatory, $55 million punitive) to another woman who had used Johnson & Johnson talcum powders as part of her feminine hygiene routine for over four decades.
In an interview with Legal NewsLine, an attorney for Johnson & Johnson insisted that the possible association between talc and ovarian cancer has been “carefully studied for decades, there is no proven linkage . . .” He maintained that the jury decisions in both Missouri cases “went against the decades of studies by medical experts around the world that continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.”
However, both talcum powder lawsuits cited a number of studies dating back to the 1970s that suggested long-term application of talcum powder in the genital region can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer, including one were talc particles were detected in the tissue of ovarian cancer victims. Plaintiffs also introduced a 1997 internal memo in which a medical consultant for Johnson & Johnson warned that “anybody who denies (the) risks” between “hygienic” talc powder use and ovarian cancer will be viewed similarly to those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”