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Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower Use Led To Ovarian Cancer Death, Lawsuit Claims

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A Louisiana man indicates that years of talcum powder exposure through the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower ultimately resulted in the ovarian cancer death of his mother. 

On April 16, Robert M. Buffington filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, Imerys Talc and other defendants, indicating that the companys’ products caused his mother, Sally B. Hudson, to develop ovarian cancer following use of the products for feminine hygiene purposes.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, indicating that Hudson used talcum powder products from about 1980 until 2016. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2015, and died from the disease on April 16, 2017.

Buffington’s lawsuit indicates that his mother, like hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of other women worldwide, were under the impression that talc was safe to apply to their genitals because Johnson & Johnson told them it was and, in fact, encouraged them to do so.

“The Products are not safe. Numerous studies have confirmed that talcum powder, such as the Products, significantly increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc-based powder to powder their genital area,” Buffington’s lawsuit states. “Indeed, women who use the powder in their genital area have a 33% increased risk of ovarian cancer compared to those women who do not use the powders.”

The complaint raises allegations similar to those presented in several thousand Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought by women nationwide over the past few years, indicating that talc contained in the products may migrate through the vagina following regular and long-term use, causing the development of ovarian cancer.

Over the past few years, a number of talcum powder ovarian cancer cases have gone before state court juries, with many resulting in multi-million dollar damage awards over Johnson & Johnson’s failure to adequately warn about the risks associated with their products. However, the manufacturer is pursuing appeals in each of those cases, and has maintained that it does not intend to offer talcum powder settlements for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in other cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in the District of New Jersey, before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson. Known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL), the federal cases have been centralized to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different Courts and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and judicial system.

Following coordinated discovery and any bellwether trials held in the MDL, if Johnson & Johnson fails to resolve the litigation, they could face individual trials in courts nationwide. Given the size of several early jury verdicts, this could result in staggering liability for the company.

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