A woman who says Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about the risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talcum powder has been awarded $55 million by a state court jury in St. Louis, Missouri.
The plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for most of her life. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and is now in remission after a hysterectomy.
The verdict comes just three months after another jury in St. Louis awarded $72 million in a similar case. About 1,200 talc cancer lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts in Missouri and New Jersey.
After a month-long trial and most of yesterday in discussion, the jury awarded $5 million in compensation and another $50 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary.
The jury cleared the company of liability on conspiracy charges, despite evidence that it helped create a task force intended to downplay safety concerns regarding talc.
Imerys Talc America, the supplier of talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder, was also cleared of liability. In 2006, Imerys updated the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for talc to warn about cancer.
The updates came soon after an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared genital talc use as “possibly carcinogenic” based on studies linking it to a 30-60% increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Lawyers say Johnson & Johnson actually knew about the risk decades earlier. In the 1970s, studies found particles of talc in tissue samples from women with ovarian cancer, proving it can travel through the vagina and fallopian tubes. Once inside the ovaries, talc could cause inflammation and increase the risk of cancer.
Lawyers showed the jury a memo from 1986 noting that “studies have implicated talc use in the vaginal area with the incidence of ovarian cancer.” Other memos from the 1990s acknowledge the risk of cancer, but recommend increasing marketing efforts toward women.
In closing arguments, lawyers told the jury, “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.”
Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson have vowed to appeal the verdict. A spokeswoman said the company sympathizes with women with ovarian cancer, but “multiple scientific and regulatory reviews have determined that talc is safe for use in cosmetic products and the labeling on Johnson’s Baby Powder is appropriate.”
The case is Gloria Ristesund v. Johnson & Johnson, Case No. 1422-CC09012-01, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri.
— Source: Courtroom View Network