Articles Posted in Talcum Powder

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TalcumPowder2-SmallOn August 21, 2017, Johnson & Johnson was hit with the largest talcum powder jury verdict to date – $417 million. The case was tried in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, and the verdict is comprised of $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. Plaintiff Eva Echeverria sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging she developed ovarian cancer after using talc-based products, including Baby Powder, for hygiene. Her attorneys argued to the jury that Johnson & Johnson engaged in a practice of encouraging women to use its talc-based products even though they had known for years about studies linking ovarian cancer to use of talc products in the genital region.

In recent years, thousands of women across the country have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson based on scientific links between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The lawsuits claim that the company knew of dangers but concealed them from innocent consumers. Of those lawsuits, at least five have proceeded to trial in Missouri, with Johnson & Johnson losing all but one. In those cases, the juries awarded over $300 million collectively in the four trials in which the plaintiff was successful. Johnson & Johnson has vigorously disputed liability and claims it will appeal the California verdict discussed above.

When finding for the plaintiff, juries are sending a strong message to Johnson & Johnson and other product manufacturers by awarding punitive damages. This is a special class of damages designed to punish a defendant and deter others from engaging in similar practices in the future. While each state will have its own standards as to when punitive damages may apply, they are commonly awarded when a defendant maliciously, fraudulently, intentionally, or knowingly causes harm to an innocent consumer.

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In May 2017, a jury in Missouri awarded a verdict of $110 million to a 62-year-old woman who developed ovarian cancer after using products containing talcum powder. The verdict was assessed against Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactured the products in question, baby powder and Shower to Shower. The victim was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. She sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging they hid the possibility that talc could cause cancer. The trial lasted three weeks.

Johnson & Johnson has been hit with several other large jury verdicts in talcum powder lawsuits, including some in the tens of millions of dollars. Those include verdicts of $72 million, $70 million, and $55 million.

Many lawsuits are currently pending regarding talcum powder and how it can cause women to develop ovarian cancer. Talc is a mineral, and its powder form is prevalent in certain consumer products. Women in particular have used these products for years for hygiene. The lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson knew there was a risk that talcum powder caused ovarian cancer but knowingly concealed that information from consumers for years. As a result, the product liability lawsuits filed by victims against the company seek monetary damages for developing a life-altering injury like cancer.

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On October 27, 2016, a St. Louis, Missouri jury awarded over $70 million in damages to a California woman who developed ovarian cancer after using a Johnson & Johnson product that contained talcum powder. The plaintiff, a 62-year-old woman, used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for over 40 years. In 2012, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Recent studies have linked talcum powder to ovarian cancer. While the plaintiff has undergone surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy in efforts to recover, the plaintiff’s doctors believe her odds of surviving the next two years are just 20%.

In this case, the jury assessed damages against two defendants, Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, the company that supplied the talc to Johnson & Johnson. Of the total damages awarded, $2.5 million is for the plaintiff’s medical bills and pain and suffering. This amount will be split between the two defendants. The remainder of the verdict is for punitive damages, with $65 million to be paid by Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million by Imerys.

Punitive damages are a special class of damages, and they are different from compensatory damages.  Compensatory damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, are designed to make the plaintiff whole from injuries sustained as a result of another’s negligence. On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their conduct and can be awarded when a defendant exhibits egregious conduct. By assessing punitive damages, the goal is to put others on notice that a defendant’s conduct is not acceptable and to deter others from committing similar misconduct in the future.