A woman in Missouri won $55 million in the second ovarian cancer trial against baby powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Baby powder is made from talcum powder, and is linked to ovarian cancer when used genitally. Our talcum powder attorneys are representing women diagnosed with ovarian cancer nationwide.
This is the second talc cancer lawsuit to go to trial this year, and the second multi-million dollar win for plaintiffs. The first suit ended in $72 million to the plaintiff, who tragically passed away from ovarian cancer before trial. Her family was awarded the jury verdict, though her son couldn’t stifle his tears when the award was announced. The woman, Jackie Fox, was only 62 years old.
Baby Powder Lawsuits Explained
Jackie Fox and this most recent plaintiff (who is also 62), Gloria Ristesund, are two of more than 1,200 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The plaintiffs are women who used J&J’s baby powder genitally and have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
They accuse J&J of knowing about studies suggesting a link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder and never putting a warning on the products’ labels. Both Fox and Ristesund claim J&J should have at least included a warning on baby powder’s labels, so women were free to make an informed choice about whether to use the product. Since no one warned them about the potential risks, they believed baby powder to be completely, irrefutably safe. All the while, J&J had knowledge of the possible link to ovarian cancer.
The studies linking cancer to genital talcum powder use first emerged in the 1970s. That’s 40 years of consistent research J&J willfully ignored and hid from the public.
In its defense, J&J continues to uphold talcum powder as a safe product. It confirms that it knew about these studies, but believed the association with ovarian cancer was too weak, and was confident about continuing to sell its baby powder without warnings. J&J plans to appeal the verdict.
Ristesund’s case was actually hand-picked for trial by J&J. Jurors struggled with the case, but ultimately decided in a 9 to 3 vote for Ristesund. Many experts believe this loss will compel J&J to consider a settlement program for all ovarian cancer plaintiffs.
J&J has been selling its baby powder almost since its founding; it’s the basis of its multi-billion dollar baby business and a core part of its image. If multi-million dollar verdicts continue to come out against the iconic product, the damage to its reputation could be severe. J&J was voted the “most trustworthy brand” by Forbes in 2014.
While the $55 and $72 million awards are certainly sizable for the plaintiffs, they don’t make a dent in the company’s bottom line. J&J is the world’s largest healthcare product manufacturer. The greater harm to the company would be public distrust, particularly since court documents show J&J specifically targeted its baby powder advertisements to women looking to “freshen up.”
What is Talc?
Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral made up of silicon, magnesium, and oxygen. When used as a powder, talcum absorbs moisture and helps with friction, which is why woman were encouraged to use it genitally.
In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, another mineral known to cause cancer in and around the lungs when it’s inhaled. Typically, asbestos exposure occurs in the workplace, leading to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis decades after even the most brief exposures. In the 1970s, all talcum products in the U.S. were required to be free of asbestos, though there is still some speculation about the risk of exposure.
Baby powder is made of talcum powder. When applied to the genital area, the powder particles can travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes, and embed in the ovaries.
Since then, researchers have found talc particles in ovarian tissue, pelvic lymph nodes, and other areas of the female reproductive organs. One study of human ovarian tumors found talc particles in 75% of cases. Talc was found in Ristesund’s ovarian tissue after her hysterectomy.
There have been many studies on this topic, with mixed results, though many have concluded there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer among talcum powder users. Estimates range from 24% to 40% increased risk.
That J&J continues to deny the risk is absurd and unconscionable. It’s akin to cigarette manufacturers denying smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, or asbestos manufacturers denying asbestos increases the risk of mesothelioma. The risk is obvious and proven. The denial is strictly to save face and save some money in court.
Our team of ovarian cancer lawyers are representing women with a history of talc powder use. If you or someone you love was has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, contact our firm for a free consultation. We accept clients nationwide and will travel to you to help guide you through the process of filing a claim against J&J.
The company won’t make safer products until it is forced to by public scrutiny. Consumers like us are the most important tool to making that happen and enacting lasting change in the safety of our healthcare products.