Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Defendant Seeks Summary Judgment Ahead of Sixth Missouri Trial

Published on May 26, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Johnson & Johnson has motioned for summary judgment in three talcum powder lawsuits scheduled to go to trial next month is Missouri. In separate motions filed on April 17th, the company argued, among other things, that the plaintiffs lacked evidence showing that talc was a general cause of ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more than 1,000 ovarian cancer claims currently pending in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court, where the three talc cases have been consolidated for a trial scheduled to begin on June 5th.  The lawsuits were filed on behalf of women who died of the disease following long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. All three were allegedly found to have talc in their ovaries.

Missouri Talcum Powder Trials & Verdicts

The Missouri litigation has already convened five trials involving the alleged link between Johnson & Johnson talcum powders and ovarian cancer. So far, the health care products giant has prevailed in just one case. Last month, a woman with terminal ovarian cancer was awarded $5.4 million in actual damages and $105 million in punitive damages by the jury hearing her claim. The verdict was the largest awarded so far in a talcum powder lawsuit.

During the most recent trial, the plaintiffs’ attorneys highlighted several internal Johnson & Johnson documents indicating that company officials had long been aware of research linking genital talc use to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Those documents apparently made a significant impression on the jury, with one member telling Bloomberg News that their contents were “mind-blowing”. The panel deliberated for just 10 hours before returning its verdict.

Last October, another Missouri jury awarded a California woman was awarded $70 million, including $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $67.5 million in punitive damages.  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.

3,900 Talcum Powder Lawsuits Now Pending

Roughly 3,900 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson in U.S. courts on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to the long-term use of Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. In addition to Missouri, the claims are pending in state courts in New Jersey, California and Delaware. A multidistrict litigation has also been established in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, for talcum powder lawsuits filed on the federal level.

In a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Johnson & Johnson noted that it continues to receive information with respect to potential costs and the anticipated number of talcum powder lawsuits.  The company has established an accrual for defense costs in connection with the litigation.

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