Johnson & Johnson Seeks to Overturn $417 Million Verdict Awarded in California’s First Talcum Powder Lawsuit

Published on October 3, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Johnson & Johnson is seeking to overturn the $417 million verdict awarded last month at the conclusion of the state’s first talcum powder lawsuit trial.

The verdict currently stands as the largest ever awarded in a case involving the alleged association between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products and ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson Files Motions for New Trial, Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

The California lawsuit was filed on behalf of 63-year-old Eva Echeverria, who began using Johnson & Johnson talcum powders for routine feminine hygiene when she was just 11-years-old. Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, and alleged that her talc exposure had contributed to the diseases.

During the month-long trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, Echeverria’s attorneys cited several studies that pointed to a link between long-term genital talc use and ovarian cancer, including a paper from 1982 that suggested women who used talcum powder for routine feminine hygiene faced a 92% increased risk for the disease. They also highlighted internal Johnson & Johnson documents dating back to 1964 as proof that the company was aware of the potential danger.

Following two days of deliberations, jurors voted 9-3 to award Echeverria $417 million, including $347 million dollars in punitive damages.

In a motion for a new trial filed on September 15th, Johnson & Johnson asserted that the verdict should be reversed due to what it claims was misconduct on the part of jurors in the deliberations room.

Among other things, the company asserts that three jurors who had favored the defense were left out of discussions related to damages, purportedly a violation of both the jury’s instructions and the company’s due process rights.

Johnson & Johnson also argued that that the $347 million in punitive damages awarded to Echeverria was both excessive and improperly calculated.

“The size of the verdict, contrasted with the serious deficiencies in the evidence offered at trial, raise a broader concern about runaway juries imposing staggering liability based on speculative science—a concern that is amplified by the fact that this is only one of more than a thousand talc-related cases pending nationwide,” the company’s attorney wrote. “The verdict is seriously flawed in so many respects that it cries out for this court’s intervention.”

Johnson & Johnson also filed a motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict in which it asserted that the evidence presented at trial was not enough to prove that Echeverria’s talcum powder use had caused her ovarian cancer, or that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide consumers with adequate warnings regarding the known risks of its products.

Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Litigation

Johnson & Johnson faces nearly 5,000 talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits nationwide.

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.

Missouri’s sixth trial is scheduled to convene its sixth trial later this month.

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