A talcum cancer trial brought a $55 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in Missouri this week. It was the second large jury verdict against the company this year over its beleaguered Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower bath products.
A woman suing Johnson & Johnson over its talcum powder won a $55 million jury verdict in Missouri state court on Monday, May 2, 2016. The woman sued Johnson & Johnson for having developed ovarian cancer which she said was caused by her several-years’ use of J&J’s baby powder for feminine hygiene. This was the third trial J&J has lost to plaintiffs over the talcum powder-ovarian cancer link.
J&J loses Three Talc Cancer Trials
Jurors also agreed with a South Dakota woman in the first talc cancer trial in 2013. That woman also argued that J&J failed to warn her of the increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder; the jury awarded no damages in that case, which the woman’s lawyer said was a result of her cancer being in remission for six years. In the second talc-cancer trial, which concluded in February 2016, the plaintiff had died from ovarian cancer; that jury awarded $72 million in damages.
1,000 Talc-Cancer Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson now faces at least another 1,000 lawsuits from other women who also claim the company failed to warn them of the talcum powder-ovarian cancer risk. Several dozen of those lawsuits remain pending in Missouri.
J&J Liable for Failure to Warn
Plaintiff Gloria Ristesund received her $55 million verdict on Monday after a four-week trial and about a day of jury deliberation. According to Law 360, “Jurors found J&J not liable on conspiracy claims, but liable on other product liability claims leveled against them in the suit.”
Failure to Warn
Failure to warn has been a primary claim in each of the three suits, and all three juries have agreed with plaintiffs that J&J failed to warn them of the increased risk of ovarian cancer from frequent use of talc.
Imrys Talc America Inc., the talc producer for J&J’s talcum powder in this case, escaped liability in this case. The Missouri state court jury held J&J and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary each 50 percent responsible for Ms. Ristesund’s damages.
Ms. Ristesund was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages from the jury, in addition to $35 million in punitive damages. J&J’s subsidiary was hit with $15 million in punitive damages.
In closing arguments Friday, April 29, the plaintiff’s attorney told jurors Johnson & Johnson had discussed talc’s ovarian cancer risks for decades but failed to warn women. Jurors were shown a Johnson & Johnson internal document from 1986 that noted, “retrospective studies have implicated talc use in the vaginal area with the incidence of ovarian cancer.” He said it was one of many documents showing that J&J had, behind closed doors, recognized a risk, yet denied it publicly.
Talcum Cancer Trial: $55 Million Verdict
Ms. Ristesund’s attorney said: “They can say whatever they want to with their fancy experts when they come up here that testify in litigation all the time. This is what they said behind closed doors, when they’re in the house and they don’t think anybody’s listening. A whole different song and dance.”
Ms. Ristesund’s lawyer did not suggest an award amount to jurors for his client, though he did suggest punitive damages ought to change the companies’ behavior, that jurors should “make them pay” for their conduct.
Endometrioid Ovarian Cancer
Ms. Ristesund, 62, said she was diagnosed with endometrioid ovarian cancer in 2011, when she was 57. She alleged that daily talc use on her genital area, along with her endometriosis, raised her ovarian cancer risk by 214 percent.
Risk Factors for Cancer
Johnson & Johnson attorneys in the case argued that evidence shows talc is safe. They said studies suggesting otherwise are either inconclusive or flawed. They further argued that Ms. Ristesund’s endometriosis likely caused her cancer, claiming that endometriosis is a recognized, significant risk factor for ovarian cancer, and that the plaintiff presented no proof that talc caused her cancer.
Using history for our guide, we can likely expect J&J’s army of attorneys to first attempt to have the $55 million verdict overturned, or at least lowered through various tort reform subterfuge put in place by well-paid politicians. If those plays all fail, the company will then likely appeal the verdict. J&J is one enormously wealthy corporation that can afford to keep paying attorneys to neutralize or neuter the jury system in the United States.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to observe the sort of media attention this second huge verdict receives from mainstream media. Johnson & Johnson is such a powerful advertiser, a big source of revenue for so many media outlets, that mainstream media will likely play these stories down, or even decline to air them altogether. For people paying attention, it will be interesting to see how these enormous jury awards against J&J’s flagship product affect the company’s reputation among “consumers.”
Stay tuned. . .