Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $417 million to a California woman who developed ovarian cancer after having used talc-based products for routine feminine hygiene. The lawsuit claimed that talc products including Johnson's Baby Powder cause ovarian cancer when used in that way and that J&J knew but failed to warn consumers about the risk.
Talc and its relation talcum powder, are derived from a naturally occurring mineral substance that absorbs moisture and reduces friction. It has been widely used to reduce dampness and chaffing in moist areas. The plaintiffs claim J&J is responsible for its cancer-causing properties because the company knew of them yet encouraged women to use the products for feminine hygiene.
The verdict was the largest yet in a series of lawsuits brought against J&J over talc-based hygiene products. It was seen as a major setback for the company, which is facing some 4,800 such claims nationwide.
Beyond $70 million in damages meant to compensate the victim, in this case the jury ordered $347 million in punitive damages meant to punish the company for wrongdoing. That was a substantially larger verdict than the verdicts in several earlier cases brought in Missouri, which will cost the company and its talc supplier $307 million in total so far.
The verdict is also significant because some observers expected the Missouri verdicts to be the only ones, or at least that they would be outliers. J&J portrayed the St. Louis court as unduly plaintiff-friendly and suggested that out-of-state claimants who filed suits there were doing so in order to garner a friendly forum for their claims. J&J had prevailed in one of four talc cases heard in the St. Louis court before the California verdict.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting the ability of plaintiffs to file in courts other than their own states' or the state in which a corporation is based. J&J was thought to be a major beneficiary of that ruling.
Instead, the first ruling from a court outside St. Louis also found J&J liable for cancer tied to talc.
J&J denies that Johnson's Baby Powder is dangerous and intends to appeal the verdict. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," said a company spokesperson.
If you have been injured by a consumer or medical product, you may not know where to go for answers. A lawyer experienced in medical product liability can help you understand your rights and your legal options.