May 3, 2016 — A state jury in St. Louis, Missouri has awarded $55 million to a woman who sued Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn about the risk of ovarian cancer from using baby powder for genital hygiene.
In February, another jury in St. Louis awarded $72 million in a similar case. Approximately 1,200 talc cancer lawsuits are now pending in state and federal courts in Missouri and New Jersey.
After a four-week trial, the jury spent most of yesterday deliberating. Johnson & Johnson was found liable for failing to warn about the risk of cancer, but cleared of liability on conspiracy claims despite evidence that it created a task force to downplay possible safety risks.
The plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, used Johnson’s Baby Powder genitally for 40 years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. She was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages for her medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses. Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary were hit with $50 million in punitive damages.
Imerys Talc America, the Paris-based mining conglomerate that supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson, was cleared of liability. In 2006, Imerys began including warnings about the possible carcinogenic effects of using talc genitally in the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) provided to Johnson & Johnson.
Lawyers say these warnings should have been enough to alert Johnson & Johnson about the risk. They say the company knew about evidence linking talcum powder and cancer for decades but failed to warn consumers.
The plaintiff’s attorneys said in closing arguments:
“They can say whatever they want to with their fancy experts when they come up here that testify in litigation all the time. 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.”
About a decade ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warned about studies linking talc with a 30-60% increased risk of ovarian cancer. In 2006, the Canadian government classified talc as a “very toxic” and “cancer causing” substance in the same category as asbestos.
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