Johnson & Johnson continues to face a growing number of legal claims filed on behalf of women who developed ovarian cancer allegedly related to their use of Baby Powder and Show-to-Shower talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes.
According to the company’s latest quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, approximately 6,600 talcum powder lawsuits are now pending in jurisdictions throughout the United States. The claims have been primarily filed in in Missouri, New Jersey and California state courts, while federally-filed cases have been centralized in a multidistrict litigation currently underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
The number of talcum powder lawsuits continues to increase. Johnson & Johnson indicated that it had established an accrual for defense costs in connection with talcum powder litigation.
All of the currently pending talcum powder lawsuits allege that the regular and repeated application of talc-based powders to the female genitals increases a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs assert that talc particles can enter the vagina and eventually make their way to the ovaries, resulting in the type of inflammation that causes cancer.
To support their claims, plaintiffs point to more than a dozen studies published since the 1970s that suggest a link between genital talc-use and ovarian cancer. They also cite decades-old internal company communications that they claim prove officials at Johnson & Johnson were aware of this research but failed to warn consumers out of a desire to protect the profits derived from its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower franchises.
Since February 2015, several talcum powder ovarian cancer plaintiffs have been awarded multi-million-dollar judgments in cases involving Johnson & Johnson’s products, with awards ranging from $55 million to $417 million. Recently, however, a judge in California overturned the $417 million verdict because of accusations involving juror misconduct and other issues.
A $72 million verdict awarded to an out-of-state plaintiff in Missouri’s talcum powder litigation was also tossed to comply with new standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California.
However, a $110 million verdict awarded to another out-of-state plaintiff was upheld, after the trial court concluded that jurisdiction was appropriate because Johnson & Johnson had used a state-based company to label, package and distribute their talc products.
Johnson & Johnson is also named a defendant in a number of cases alleging its talcum powders contained asbestos and caused plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma.
The nation’s first mesothelioma trial involving Johnson & Johnson talcum powders concluded last November, after a California Superior Court jury found for the company.
A second trial is now underway in New Jersey’s Middlesex County Superior Court.