Verdicts against Johnson & Johnson, for failing to warn of the dangers of ovarian cancer associated with talcum powder, are in limbo as the company seeks to appeal the multimillion dollar awards. In February, 2016, Jacqueline Fox’s family was awarded $72 million dollars after finding Johnson & Johnson liable for her death from ovarian cancer. A second trial in May 2016 led to a verdict against Johnson & Johnson awarding Gloria Ristesund $55 million dollars in damages.
Johnson & Johnson is beginning the process of challenging the outcome in the two lost Saint Louis cases, claiming that the juries failed to look at the 30 years of evidence supporting the safety of cosmetic talc. No official appeal has been filed yet; however, Johnson & Johnson filed arguments asking the trial court judge for new trials. Johnson & Johnson is arguing that the Court mistakenly allowed experts to supplement their work shortly before testifying, preventing the defense enough time to appropriately prepare for cross-examination. The defense further argued that the expert testimonies used by the plaintiffs lacked credibility and soundness in regards to their studies citing the dangers of talc. The Court instead assumed the reliability of the experts. The attorneys for Johnson & Johnson during the Ristesund trial also believed that the jurors were influenced by the Fox verdict when deliberating the case due to the same venue and widespread knowledge of the previous case. They believe this may have created an unfair and biased trial. The appeals process is likely to continue in the near future and the outcome remains unknown.
The verdict in the original trial came after the jury listened to hours of expert testimony cautioning of the statistically significant link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder in fact contains 99.8% talc, making its use potentially deadly. Ristesund too had suffered from ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for decades. There are still 1,200 more pending cases against Johnson & Johnson. While some may go to trial, it is likely that most will settle out of court. Analysts predict that a trend has been created—the two previous Saint Louis cases held Johnson & Johnson accountable for its negligence in failure to provide proper warning to consumers of the potential risk of ovarian cancer.
In 1982, Dr. Daniel Cramer published the first statically significant data that directly linked talcum powder to the development of ovarian cancer. The data was so strong that an executive from Johnson & Johnson met with him to discuss his findings. An internal memorandum from 1997 suggests that executives knew denying the risk of using the talcum powder on or by the genital region and contracting ovarian cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary,” and compared doing so to denying the risk of using cigarettes and lung cancer. This indicates that Johnson & Johnson went out of its way to hide the information from the public.
Johnson & Johnson denies the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The company presents itself as proactive in its responses to claims of potentially harmful chemicals in their products. For example, in 2012, Johnson and Johnson removed formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane from its baby shampoo after studies indicated the chemical were probable carcinogens. Later that year, Johnson & Johnson released a statement acknowledging the dangers associated with the previous baby shampoo’s ingredients and promising to continue to ensure that all of their products are completely safe for consumers.
Johnson & Johnson provides an alternative for the talcum-based baby powder—one that is corn starch-based. Many interpret this as proof that there has always been concern about the talcum powder’s potential risks, enough so that a new formula was created without talc. However, Johnson & Johnson continues to deny any risks associated with talcum powder and will continue with appeals on this claim. Until then they will busy with the 1,200 pending cases.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder, you may have a claim. An attorney can help you hold the company accountable for damages and its failure to provide warning of the potential risks of the talcum powder.