Attorneys for a woman who blames Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for her ovarian cancer diagnosis are now presenting her case to a Missouri jury. Earlier this week, a pathologist testifying on the Plaintiff’s behalf asserted that her ovarian tissue was riddled with talc particles.
The case is the fourth talcum powder lawsuit to go to trial over the past year in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis, where more than 1,000 claims involving Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products have been consolidated. Plaintiffs with cases pending in the litigation accuse Johnson & Johnson of willfully ignoring research suggesting that the regular, repeated application of talcum powder to the female genitals could increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. The case currently at trial was filed on behalf of a 56-year old woman who says that Johnson & Johnson talcum powders was a daily part of her feminine hygiene routine or more than 30 years prior to her 2013 diagnosis.
Harvard Pathologist John Godleski took the stand for the Plaintiff on Tuesday to discuss the condition of tissue that was obtained from her body during removal of her reproductive organs. Two ovarian tumors were discovered during the May 2013 procedure, including one the size of a grapefruit.
“Godleski examined three blocks of tissue and concluded that particles 72 and 73 in one of the slides, as they were named, were in fact talc because of the ratio of magnesium to silicon that a scanning electron microscope identified within them,” according to a report from Law360.com. “Talc is also known as magnesium silicate.”
The presences of those particles “suggests there’s going to be much more” in the rest of the tissue, he said.
On cross examination, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson disputed Godleski’s assertion, arguing that only a single talc particle had been identified in the tissue.
Godleski was one four contributors to a 2007 journal article entitled “Presence of Talc in Pelvic Lymph Nodes of a Woman with Ovarian Cancer and Long-Term Genital Exposure To Cosmetic Talc.” One of his co-authors, Harvard’s Daniel Cramer, is also scheduled to testify as an expert for the Plaintiff.
All three previous Missouri talcum powder trials have ended with verdicts favoring plaintiffs, with juries ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay compensatory and punitive damages totaling $200 million. The ongoing trial is being closely watched to see if the company can bring its losing streak to an end. Nationwide, Johnson & Johnson faces more than 2,000 similar lawsuits.
Last October, talcum powder lawsuits pending in federal courts around the country were consolidated in a federal multidistrict litigation established last year in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. At least 134 claims were pending in that proceeding as of February 15th.
On the state level, talcum powder litigations are underway in New Jersey’s Atlantic Superior Court and Los Angeles Superior Court in California. The first California case will go to trial on July 3, 2017. The trial was scheduled after attorneys representing a woman with terminal ovarian cancer made a motion for trial preference, as she is not expected to live for more than six months.