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Johnson & Johnson Negligent in Talc-Ovarian Cancer Case

Johnson & Johnson Negligent in Talc-Ovarian Cancer Case

Johnson & Johnson Negligent in Talc-Ovarian Cancer Case 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a St. Louis jury to pay $62 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using the company’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene. The company was found guilty of negligence, failure to warn (a key element of the case), and conspiracy to conceal risks associated with its products. Of the $72 million award, $10 million were for compensatory damages and $62 million were added for punitive damages.

The trial is the first of 1,200 ovarian cancer claims filed in the last two years against J&J and the company that supplied the talc — the ingredient that was found to be the cause of the deceased woman’s ovarian cancer. The company said in a statement that it is committed to the safety and health of consumers and reiterated its belief, “supported by decades of scientific evidence,” that cosmetic talc is safe. J&J is expected to appeal the verdict.

During the trial, the company argued there was no evidence directly linking talc to ovarian cancer and without a causal connection, there was no reason to warn consumers of the risks.

The Grim Statistics of Ovarian Cancer

  • About 20,000 U.S. women annually are diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • The disease strikes about one in 70 women
  • More than 14,000 women die each year of the disease

As it relates to this case, there are studies, refuting J&J’s claims of no causal connection, indicating a higher ovarian cancer rate of 35 percent in women who use talc-based powder for feminine hygiene. Moreover, the talc powders have been used by many women for long periods of time. Talc is said to be the “softest of minerals,” which is widely used in industrial and consumer products, including paints, paper, rubber, roofing and ceramic materials, a filler in capsules and pills and in cosmetics, as well as a food additive.

Warning Signs of Talc and Ovarian Cancer

The potential of a possible link between talc and ovarian cancer was first revealed by British researchers in 1971 who found talc particles embedded in 10 ovarian tumors. More than 10 years later, a study in the journal Cancer showed a “statistical link” between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. A more recent study by a co-author of that report found a 33 percent higher rate of ovarian cancer among women who used talc for feminine hygiene. Moreover, in a prior case against J&J in 2013, a jury found the company guilty of failure to warn of the ovarian cancer risks, but awarded no damages because they were not convinced of a direct link to talc use.

Based on these studies, some health advocates have been calling on talc manufacturers to warn against using the products for genital hygiene. While it remains to be seen whether J&J will prevail in its appeal, the possible link between talc and ovarian cancer, and the company’s failure to warn consumers, will be the overarching issue in the 1,200 claims the company is facing. In the end, proving negligence because of a failure to warn requires the skills of a personal injury attorney who is well-versed in product liability law.