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Talcum Powder Trial Over Ovarian Cancer Death Ends in $72M Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson

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A St. Louis jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer allegedly caused by talcum powder used throughout her life for feminine hygiene purposes. 

The lawsuit involved a claim filed by the family of Jackie Fox, who died of overian cancer in 2015. According to evidence presented to the jury, Fox used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products her whole life, and alleged that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn that the talc may migrate through the vagina and increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Following a three week trial in the Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis, the jury determined that Johnson & Johnson should pay the family $10 million in compensatory damages, and added a $62 million punitive damage award, which is designed to punish the company after internal documents revealed the manufacturer knew about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer for years, yet withheld the information from consumers.

Johnson’s Baby Powder is the most widely used talcum powder product sold by the company, which is most commonly associated with use on infants to smooth skin and prevent diaper rash. However, it is also popular among adult women for general hygiene purposes, and the company sold a general body powder product, marketed as Shower-to-Shower, specifically for this use.

The case filed by the Fox family is one of about 1,200 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower body powder lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn that the talcum-based powders may increase the risk of ovarian cancer when applied to the female genitals.

The lawsuits point to mounting evidence suggesting that the powder may migrate through the vagina and into the fallopian tubes, uterus and overaies, with evidence of talc found in many ovarian tumors.

In October 2013, a South Dakota jury heard evidence in a similar case, finding that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn about the risk of ovarian cancer from talcum powder, but no damages were awarded. That case involved a 56 year old woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, with three doctors who examined her cancer tissue indicating that evidence of talc was found in tissue using an electron microscope.

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