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Only weeks after one St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in damages for failing to warn about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, a separate jury has ordered the manufacturer to pay another $55 million in a similar talc overian cancer case.
Late Monday, Gloria Ristesund was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages by a second St. Louis jury, and another $50 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for recklessly disregarding the health and safety of women who used the company’s baby and body powders for feminine hygiene purposes.
The case raised similar allegations to those presented in February 2016, in a talcum powder wrongful death trial brought by the family of Jackie Fox, who died of ovarian cancer after using talc-based powder her entire life. That award included $10 million in compensatory damages, with an additional $62 million in punitive damages.
These back-to-back landmark verdicts may only be the “tip of the iceberg” for Johnson & Johnson, who still faces about 2,000 Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought on behalf of women throughout the United States who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
While talc powder is most commonly associated with use as a baby powder to help prevent diaper rash and maintain smooth skin, Johnson & Johnson has promoted their products for decades as a general body powder among adult women, who were encouraged to use talcum powder after every shower and place it in their underwear to maintain “personal freshness”.
According to allegations raised at these recent trials, Johnson & Johnson knew or should have known about the ovarian cancer risk from talcum powder for decades, yet failed to provide any warnings.
Internal Memos Key
Both Ristesund and Fox’s cases included company documents that indicated Johnson & Johnson was aware of the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer since the 1970s. But even as recently as 1992, some documents indicate that the company specifically targeted sales towards women who were high users of talcum powder without ever warning them of the possible cancer risks.
After Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she underwent a hysterectomy and particles of talc were found inside of her tumors.
Following a three-week trial, jurors deliberated on Monday before issuing a 9-3 verdict in Ristesund’s favor.
Johnson & Johnson has said they intend to appeal this verdict as well as the Fox verdict. However, Ristesund’s case was one the company’s “bellwether” picks, presumably because it was seen as more favorable to the defenses they intend to present throughout the litigation.
Another trial is expected to begin later this month, involving claims brought by Tenesha Farrar, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013.
As more women and families discover that ovarian cancer diagnosed in recent years may be linked to use of Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower, a growing number of cases are continuing to be filed nationwide. In many cases, evidence of talc is found in ovarian tumors.
It is ultimately expected that thousands of additional lawsuits will be brought against Johnson & Johnson. If the company fails to reach talcum powder settlements for women with ovarian cancer, they could face a steady stream of jury trials in the coming years, potentially facing billions in liability.