The plaintiff whose case was selected for California’s first talcum powder lawsuit trial continued to present evidence last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.
On Friday, jurors heard from a Canadian epidemiology expert who was called to offer his opinions on studies linking talc-based powders to ovarian cancer.
Among other things, Jack Siemiatycki, an epidemiologist with the University of Montreal and McGill University, discussed his contributions to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2006 monograph that deemed talc a possible human carcinogen. According to Law360.com, he also testified that his stance has changed since then, as he now thinks that it is more likely than not that talc can cause ovarian cancer.
Under cross examination, Siemiatycki acknowledged that he had not reviewed the plaintiff’s specific case, as his testimony was only intended to address the general link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
The talcum powder lawsuit selected for the California trial was filed on behalf of Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old woman who allegedly made Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders a regular part of her daily feminine hygiene routine in the decades prior to her ovarian cancer diagnosis. Like other plaintiffs around the country, she claims that tiny particles of talc entered her vagina and migrated to her ovaries, resulting in the type of inflammation that encourages the growth of ovarian cancer cells.
During opening statements earlier in the week, Escheverria’s attorney asserted 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,” he said, according to Law360.com.
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in more than 3,000 talcum powder lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country. In addition to California, similar 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 convened five talcum powder trials, with plaintiffs winning all but one. The first concluded in February 2016, when the family of an Alabama woman who died of the disease was awarded $72 million ($10 million compensatory and $62 million punitive).
Three months later, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million ($5 million compensatory, $50 million punitive) to a South Dakota ovarian cancer victim.
The following October, another Missouri jury awarded $70 million, including $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $67.5 million in punitive damages, to a third plaintiff.
Missouri’s fourth talcum powder trial concluded in March 2017, with a win for Johnson & Johnson. In May, however, the company was hit with its largest talcum powder verdict thus far, when another Missouri jury awarded more than $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiff in the state’s fifth trial.