Missouri’s fifth trial involving the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is nearing its end. According to Law360.com, closing arguments began yesterday, with the Plaintiff’s attorney asking jurors to award his client significant punitive damages so that Johnson & Johnson would finally be compelled to warn consumers about the dangers purportedly associated with its talc-based powders.
The attorney’s plea followed 17 days of testimony in the case of Lois Slemp, a 61-year-old woman from Virginia who suffers from Stage III(c) ovarian cancer. Her talcum powder lawsuit is one of more than 1,000 currently pending in a consolidated litigation underway in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis City. Slemp was granted trial preference after she experienced a recurrence of her cancer and metastasis to her liver.
Slemp claims that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products, which were a fixture of her daily feminine hygiene routine for more than 40 years, contributed to the development of her ovarian cancer. During the trial, her attorneys presented several internal company documents which they said were proof that Johnson & Johnson officials had long been aware of research linking genital talc use to an increased risk for the disease. Yet the company took no action to warn consumers and even engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to ensure regulators did not declare talc a carcinogen, according to Slemp’s lawsuit.
Slemp and other plaintiffs involved in the talcum powder litigation claim that Johnson & Johnson’s actions were motivated by a desire to protect the profits derived from its popular Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower franchises. During his closing statements, Slemp’s attorney called Johnson & Johnson’s alleged conduct “reprehensible” and urged jurors to punish the company.
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 3,000 similar talcum powder lawsuits in courts around the country. In addition to Missouri, cases have been ben centralized in several other state courts, including New Jersey, Delaware and California. A multidistrict litigation has also been established for federally-filed ovarian cancer claims in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
Since early last year, the Missouri talcum powder litigation has concluded four trials, three of which went the way of plaintiffs. Last October, a woman from California was awarded $70 million, including $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $67.5 million in punitive damages, by the jury hearing her case. Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million ($5 million compensatory, $50 million punitive) to a South Dakota ovarian cancer survivor in May, while the family of an Alabama woman who died of the disease was awarded $72 million ($10 million compensatory and $62 million punitive) in February 2016.
Johnson & Johnson’s only victory came in a case that concluded in March.