A financial analyst is warning investors to expect more big verdicts against Johnson & Johnson, after a California jury awarded $417 million to the plaintiff in the latest trial involving the company’s talcum powders and ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson has been named a defendant in over 5,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in courts nationwide, all of which allege that the company’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products can increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene purposes over an extended period of time.
In their lawsuits, plaintiffs have cited a series of studies dating back to the 1970s that suggest the regular and repeated application of talc-based powders to the female genitals is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. They also highlight internal Johnson & Johnson documents that indicate company officials were aware of this research but chose not to warn consumers out of a desire to protect the profits derived from its talcum powder plaintiffs.
At trial, Johnson & Johnson has refuted that evidence by arguing that the plaintiffs’ studies are biased and outdated. The company has also presented its own scientific evidence to counter plaintiffs’ studies. However, much of that research was actually funded by Johnson & Johnson, which according to an investor report posted at Seeking Alpha on September 7, could pose a credibility problem for the company.
“Unfortunately for JNJ shareholders, the lack of scientific consensus has turned the lawsuit in a battle of credibility,” the Seeking Alpha analysis notes. “Do jurors believe the sympathetic lady diagnosed with ovarian cancer? Or do jurors believe a multi-billion dollar corporation that has faced multiple scandals, already lost similar cases and is quoting from studies which it has financed? Clearly, it is the former.”
“If I was a lawyer, I’d know who I’d like to be representing. It appears that there is still a lot more pain coming JNJ’s way,” the analyst writes in the report’s conclusion.
At least 300 talcum powder lawsuits are pending against Johnson & Johnson in California’s Los Angeles Superior Court. Last month, the jury hearing evidence in the state’s first trail ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million, including $300 million in punitive damage, to a woman with terminal ovarian cancer. While the trial included much of the evidence presented during earlier talcum powder trials, it was the first time a plaintiff was able to show that some of Johnson & Johnson’s competitors were now including ovarian cancer warnings on their talcum powder labels.
Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis, which currently houses one of the nation’s largest talcum powder litigations, has concluded five trials since early 2015. Johnson & Johnson has so far prevailed in just one of those cases. Four plaintiffs have been compensatory and punitive damages ranging from $55 million to $100 million.