A California woman who claims Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders caused her ovarian cancer began presenting evidence last week in Los Angeles Superior Court. The closely watched case is the first to go to trial in the state’s talcum powder litigation, and the first to be tried outside of Missouri.
According to her complaint, Eva Echeverria, 63, had regularly used Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene in the decades preceding her ovarian cancer diagnosis. Like other plaintiffs around the country, she claims that tiny particles of talc were able to migrate into her vagina and make their way to her ovaries. The accumulating talc purportedly caused the type of inflammation that encourages the growth of ovarian cancer cells.
In opening statements last week, Echeverria’s attorney told the jury assembled to hear her case that Johnson & Johnson had known of the alleged link between talc and ovarian cancer for decades, but decided to withhold warnings from the public to protect its image.
“It’s the safe and gentle corporate image of a mother and baby that the defendants are placing over human life, in this case,” her attorney said, according to Law360.com.
Jurors also heard from Echeverria’s expert toxicology witness, who asserted that talc is toxic and can cause ovarian cancer.
“Doses on a daily basis, if they sit in the tissue over time, the more and more body burden that builds up in those tissues can lead to continual toxicity within the tissues, and that’s this chronic inflammation,” the witness said.
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country, all of which were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to the long-term use of Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder for feminine hygiene purposes. Their complaints cite studies published as early as the 1970s that suggest the regular, repeated application of talc-based powders to the female genitals could contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.
In addition to California, talcum powder litigations are currently underway in Missouri, New Jersey and Delaware state courts, as well as New Jersey Federal Court.
The Missouri litigation – the largest in the nation – has already concluded five talcum powder trials. Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in just one of those cases. Plaintiffs in four other talcum powder lawsuits have been awarded compensatory and punitive damages ranging from $55 million to $110 million.