A California jury has begun deliberating in the state’s first products liability trial over the alleged link between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders and ovarian cancer.
According to Law360.com, the parties delivered their closing arguments Wednesday, with the plaintiff’s attorney telling the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based powders caused Eva Echeverria’s ovarian cancer. The now 63-year-old woman began using the company’s talc products for routine feminine hygiene when she was 11. Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
In their closing, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson maintained that Echeverria was misinterpreting studies that she claims are proof of a talc-ovarian cancer connection.
Now it will be up to jurors to decide if Johnson & Johnson is liable for failing to warn Echeverria about the risks allegedly associated with its talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson is named a defendant in more than 4,500 talcum powder lawsuits, all of which were filed on behalf of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following long-term use of the company’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. Among other things, their lawsuits point to 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. Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson has long been aware of these findings, but chose not to warn the public in order to protect sales of its popular Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder franchises.
Echeverria’s lawsuit is the first of some 300 cases to go to trial in California’s talcum powder litigation. Thousands of other talcum powder lawsuits are pending against Johnson & Johnson in Missouri, New Jersey and Delaware state courts, as well as New Jersey federal court.
The Missouri litigation is the nation’s largest, and has already concluded five talcum powder trials. Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in just one of those cases. The first trial ended in February 2016, when the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages, as well as $62 million in punitive damages.
In May 2015, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million ($5 million compensatory, $50 million punitive) to a South Dakota ovarian cancer victim.
In October 2016, another Missouri jury awarded $70 million, including $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $67.5 million in punitive damages, to a third plaintiff.
Johnson & Johnson’s only win in Missouri came this past March. However, the company was hit with its largest talcum powder verdict thus far just two months later, when another Missouri jury awarded more than $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiff in the state’s fifth trial.