$42 Million Jury Verdict in Talc Lawsuit Linking Products to Carcinogens

A city of St. Louis Circuit Court jury found that Johnson & Johnson’s well-known white powder, Baby Powder and Shower to Shower and other products containing talcum, were the cause of the ovarian cancer and death of an Alabama woman. The Shower to Shower product line was sold by Johnson & Johnson in 2012. For decades, these products have been depicted in advertisements as beneficial for women and children.

The civil lawsuit was brought by Jackie Fox of Birmingham, Ala., which was part of a larger claim involving 60 other injured individuals. Fox’s claim was brought by her son who took over the case after his mother passed away in October 2015 at the age of 62. She died 2 years after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Fox underwent painful chemotherapy and radiation therapies in the effort to control her cancer.

It was alleged and proved in the lawsuit that Fox used the talcum powder as a bathroom staple for years. The jury deliberated for five hours after a 3-week trial. It was the first such case among more than 1,200 nationally that are still pending against Johnson & Johnson.

The jury said Fox was entitled to $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages. The verdict will undoubtedly be appealed.

Since 2009, a coalition of groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began pushing Johnson & Johnson to do away with questionable ingredients from its baby and adult personal care products.

In 2012, Johnson & Johnson agreed to eliminate the ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both components considered probable human carcinogens. The elimination of these compounds began in 2015.

As is the case in many of the pharmaceutical cases and toxic tort cases, a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant was found and introduced that suggested that “anybody who denies (the) risks” between “hygienic” talc use in ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

Talc occurs naturally and is mined from soil and composed of magnesium, silicone, oxygen and hydrogen. The materials are used in cosmetics and personal care products. It is unlikely that the punitive damage portion of the verdict will survive on appeal.

Johnson & Johnson contends that statistical associations between the talc use and ovarian cancer are weak and may result from bias in the study’s methods. They say there is no causal link biologically since there is no proof that talc particles can pass through the genital tract to the ovaries or that, once there, malignant growths could follow. This was a bellwether case where the jury was convinced of the evidence and found the case compelling.

In the U.S., 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. More than 14,000 will die. Ovarian cancer strikes about one in 70 women. The 20 epidemiological studies show a dramatically higher risk of ovarian cancer in those women who had a history of using talc. The use of talc by the public has been discovered to be dangerous because the talc deposits are often interlaced with other minerals, including asbestos. There is evidence that talc miners have been stricken with asbestos diseases. There have been lawsuits and settlements with factory workers exposed to talc minerals, such as tire makers, who have developed asbestos related diseases. Johnson & Johnson argues that its talc is asbestos free. The lawsuits claim that J&J chose not to take precaution of replacing talc with cornstarch, which has not been linked to any health risks.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling pharmaceutical product defect cases, talcum powder lawsuits, product defect cases, toxic tort cases, IVC filter defect cases and Xarelto drug injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around the country, Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Hinsdale, Huntley, Westchester, Long Grove, Oak Lawn, Oak Forest, River Grove, Forest Park, Berwyn, Waukegan, Gurnee, Barrington, Chicago Heights, Chicago (Garfield Park, DePaul University Area, Cathedral District, Brighton Park, Bridgeport, Avondale, Lincoln Square, Little Italy, Near North Side, Rosehill, University of Chicago, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Koreatown, Hegewisch), Lockport, Park Ridge and Round Lake Beach, Ill.

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