15 Things You Need to Know About Talcum Powder Lawsuits

The delicate fragrance and soft texture of talcum powder make it seem like one of the most innocuous substances there is.

But talc products hide a dark secret. As exposed in many talcum powder lawsuits over the last decade, talcum powder use may cause ovarian cancer and is also linked to mesothelioma.

Many plaintiffs have brought about these lawsuits as a way to bring public attention to the negligence of companies that produce talc products, such as Johnson & Johnson.

These lawsuits have led to mixed success, with several big pay-outs and a number of successful dismissals and appeals. But, as the following talcum powder lawsuit facts show, this is only the beginning.

1. First Talcum Powder Lawsuit Filed in 2009

After her stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2007, Deana Berg happened upon literature implicating talc use in the development of ovarian cancer. The information, provided by the foundation Gilda’s Club, made Berg consider her own daily perineal talcum powder use for the previous 30 years.

And so, Berg filed the first talcum powder lawsuit in 2009. Johnson & Johnson offered Berg $1.3 million to settle out of court. But, when she learned that the settlement came with a confidentiality clause, she rejected the settlement. She wanted to ensure that others knew about the dangers of talcum powder instead and chose to take the lawsuit to trial in South Dakota.

2. Cancer Association Confirmed in Berg vs J&J

In a strange turn of events, that first Johnson & Johnson lawsuit ruled in favor of Deane Berg, the plaintiff. But Berg left the trial without a dime.

She explains, “South Dakota is a very conservative state, and there had to be a unanimous verdict on…any compensation.” Despite this, the jury did confirm the association between talcum powder and cancer.

And, the jury also told J&J to affix a warning to its talcum powder products explaining that the product could cause cancer. As yet, Johnson & Johnson have not included this warning on their talc products.

3. The Aim of Talcum Powder Lawsuit Plaintiffs

Although the lack of monetary compensation surprised Berg, she explains that “it was never about the money.”

Her motivation for rejecting the settlement was to bring the link between perineal talcum powder use and ovarian cancer into the public consciousness. When Berg first came across the link between talc and ovarian cancer, she found little online to support the link. At that time, most of the data was in medical journals and had yet to register with the public.

Now, due to Berg’s refusal to sign a confidentiality clause and several high-profile powder lawsuits, the public is very much aware of the link. Like Berg, all plaintiffs want talc products withdrawn from the market. And until they are, they want clear labels indicating the risk.

4. No Settlements to Date

So far, there have been no settlements in any lawsuits involving talcum powder. Johnson & Johnson and other defendants, such as Imerys Talc, have been unwilling to settle the cases out of court.

This means that the only monetary compensation available up until now has been awarded by juries. The damages in talcum powder trials can include medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and other costs such as travel expenses or funeral costs.

5. $4.7 Billion Damages in Johnson & Johnson Lawsuit

Although talcum powder plaintiffs primarily want acknowledgment from talc companies like Johnson & Johnson, lawsuits resulting in big pay-outs draw more attention to their cause.

The biggest to date is a group lawsuit brought against Johnson & Johnson by 22 women and their families in Missouri, which resulted in a $4.69 billion payout in July 2018.

The jury awarded damages of around $213.2 million per person. The jury made their decision after finding J&J liable for causing ovarian cancer due to asbestos contamination in its talc products.

But, J&J is appealing the verdict as 17 of the women lived outside the state of Missouri.

6. Largest Individual Jury Payment Overturned

In 2017, an LA jury awarded Eva Echeverria $417 million for compensatory and punitive damages.

Although this was the biggest payment to an individual across all talc lawsuits, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson later overturned the verdict.

Nelson dismissed the verdict because Echeverria did not adequately establish the link between talc and ovarian cancer. She also granted J&J’s request for a new trial, while Echeverria’s talcum powder lawyer is currently filing an appeal against the dismissal.

7. 2016 Fox Verdict Highlights J&J Cover-Up

Another significant talcum powder lawsuit was brought about against J&J by the family of ovarian cancer victim Jackie Fox.

Despite J&J’s claims that their talc products are safe, the plaintiff’s legal team introduced an internal memo from J&J sent in September 1997 into evidence.

The memo, written by a medical consultant warned that anyone “who denies [talcum powder] risks” and its link to ovarian cancer would be compared to those who deny that smoking leads to lung cancer, rejecting “the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

Fox’s lawsuit claims that not only did J&J know about the risks of their talc products, but they lied to regulatory agencies and hid those risks from consumers. In fact, the company did not start to remove known carcinogens from products until 2012, five years after the memo. As a result, jurors found J&J liable for negligence, conspiracy, and fraud.

However, J&J successfully reversed the verdict due to a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court which limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed. As Fox was from Alabama and the lawsuit was tried in Missouri, the three-judge Missouri appeal panel ruled against the original verdict.

8. $110 Million Individual Damages Upheld

It was a different story following the $110.4 million pay-out awarded to Lois Slemp in May 2017.

Although the verdict was called into question due to Slemp being from Virginia, Missouri judge Rex M. Burlison of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court upheld the verdict.

Burlison ruled that the significant role of Missouri-based PharmaTech company Union in the product in question is enough to establish proper jurisdiction in the state. Unions are involved in the processing, labeling, packagin, and distribution of Johnson’s Baby Powder.

This decision may now pave the way for other out-of-state lawsuits against J&J and their co-defendant Imerys Talc America, who are responsible for mining and supplying the talc used in J&J products.

9. J&J Aware of Cancer Link for Over 40 Years

The Jackie Fox vs Johnson and Johnson lawsuit highlighted J&J’s awareness of the connection between talc and ovarian cancer back in 1997. But, evidence now shows that J&J knew about the potential link more than 40 years ago.

Back in 1976, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was considering limits on asbestos in cosmetic talcum powder products. J&J assured the FDA that they had not detected asbestos in any sample of talc between December 1972 and October 1973.

But, what J&J failed to tell the FDA was that, between 1972 and 1975, at least three tests by different labs had found asbestos in its talc. And in one case, the levels were described as “rather high”.

But, instead of acting on this information, J&J chose to ignore it. Although they have since released powder products using safer ingredients such as cornstarch, they did not and have still not added warnings to talc products.

On one hand, there is an ongoing dispute over the validity of evidence supporting the link between talc use and ovarian cancer. But, companies can be held liable for potential defects or dangers involved in using their products. As such, J&J’s failure to warn consumers about the possible cancer link can be enough to hold them liable in some courts.

10. J&J Facing Thousands of Powder Lawsuits

There are various reports in the news about Johnson & Johnson and other defendants facing thousands of lawsuits.

But, J&J’s own quarterly report from September 2018 confirmed that it is currently facing 11,700 lawsuits “with respect to body powders containing talc.”

11. 2018 Verdict Links Talc to Mesothelioma Cancer

The vast majority of lawsuits involving talcum powder relate to claims that it causes ovarian cancer. But, in April 2018, the plaintiff Stephen Lanzo’s claim was that asbestos contamination in J&J talc products caused the development of mesothelioma cancer.

The jury involved in this mesothelioma lawsuit ordered J&J and Imerys Talc to pay $117 million in damages. This figure comprises $37 million in compensation and $80 in punitive damages.

12. J&J Also Face Shareholder Lawsuit

As a result of the bad publicity of these powder lawsuits, there is continuing debate about a potential decline in sales and share prices for Johnson & Johnson.

Some sources assured investors that J&J could and would overcome these lawsuits. But, in February 2018, shareholders who bought Johnson & Johnson securities between 2013 and 2018 filed a class action lawsuit against the company.

This lawsuit comes as a direct result of the claims directed at J&J in talcum powder trials. The lawsuit aims to recover damages for the alleged violations of federal laws relating to securities.

It goes on to claim that J&J knew about the asbestos fibers in its talc and that these fibers are linked to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

13. J&J Accused of Destroying Evidence

In addition to their 40-year cover-up, lawyers have also accused Johnson & Johnson of destroying evidence relating to ongoing lawsuits.

In June 2018, talcum powder lawyers reportedly told a New Jersey federal judge that they want to depose a J&J representative. This request aims to address why J&J lost or destroyed talc samples that they could have tested in talcum powder cases.

14. J&J Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky Responds to Lawsuit Claims

In response to talcum powder lawsuit claims, Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky has addressed the concerns over J&J talc products in a video on the company’s site.

In the video, Gorsky states that, “For over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson has known that Johnson’s Baby Powder is made of the purest, safest pharmaceutical-grade talc on Earth.”

He also addresses concerns by adding, “If we believed our products were unsafe, they would be off the shelves and out of the market immediately.” And, in a definitive statement against lawsuit claims, he adds, “J&J’s Baby Powder is safe and does not cause cancer.”

15. Valeant CEO Wants J&J to Pay for Its Defense

In addition to Johnson’s Baby Powder, another product named in these powder lawsuits is Valeant’s Shower to Shower Body Powder.

Controversially, the marketing slogan, “just a sprinkle a day helps keep odor away – have you had your sprinkle today?” encourages its use as a feminine hygiene product. As such, many women with ovarian cancer now consider perineal use of this product to be the cause of their disease.

Although Valeant sell Shower to Shower, J&J developed the product around 50 years ago and sold to Valeant in 2012. And now, there is a dispute between Valeant and J&J over the talc lawsuits both companies face. Valeant CEO Joseph Papa stated in 2017 that, “it is our belief that J&J has obligations to pay for our legal defense and to indemnify Valeant.”

The Facts on Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Talcum powder lawsuits have received a lot of press over the last few years, not least because of the sizable pay-outs awarded to plaintiffs.

But, the controversy surrounding Johnson & Johnson’s awareness of the potential problem makes these product liability lawsuits even more worthy of public attention.

As such, if you’ve received an ovarian cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis and believe that talcum powder use may be the cause, it’s crucial to find the right talcum powder lawyer to represent you.

For more information or a free case review, contact us at Babcock Partners today.

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