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As juries continue to order Johnson & Johnson to pay millions in damage to individual women diagnosed with ovarian cancer from talcum powder, a growing number of new Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits continue to be filed nationwide, highlighting the massive liability the manufacturer may face.
Last week, a St. Louis jury awarded $110 million to one woman, including about $105 million in punitive damages designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for recklessly endangering the lives of women who commonly used talc powder for feminine hygiene purposes. The verdict was at least the fourth multi-million dollar talcum powder jury award against Johnson & Johnson over the past year and a half.
In late March 2017, court documents indicated that Johnson & Johnson faced talc powder cancer lawsuits brought by more than 4,000 plaintiffs, and that number continues to grow each week, as additional cases are filed in state and federal courts nationwide.
Each of the lawsuits raise similar allegations, indicating that talc contained in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower may migrate through the vagina and increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Although plaintiffs point to studies and evidence that suggest Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk, the manufacturer continued to push use of talcum powder among adult women for “personal freshness.”
In a complaint (PDF) filed last week in Delaware Superior Court, Syrenthia Thrash describes regularly using Johnson & Johnson talc powder products to “dust her perineum”, from childhood until about 2016, indicating that the manufacturer led her and other consumers to believe the practice was safe. However, in May 2016, Thrash was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, maintaining that she did not have prior history or risk factors for the disease.
“During the time in question, the Johnson & Johnson Defendants advertised and marketed its products as the beacon of ‘freshness’ and ‘comfort’, eliminating friction on the skin, absorbing ‘excess wetness’ helping keep the skin feeling dry and comfortable, and touted as ‘clinically proven gentle and mild,'” according to the lawsuit filed by Thrash. “Although the label has changed over time, the message is the same: that the product is safe for use on women as well as babies without limitation or warning.”
Millions of women have used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, often applying the talc powder on a daily basis for decades. Therefore, as additional women learn that they may have developed ovarian cancer from talcum powder products, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to continue to increase in the coming months and years.
In addition to the $110 million verdict this month, three separate juries awarded massive damages last year, after finding that Johnson & Johnson withheld information about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. One jury awarded $70 million in November 2016, another awarded $55 million in May 2016 and a third jury awarded $72 million in February 2016. Each of those cases included massive awards of punitive damages, designed to punish the manufacturer for their actions involved in the manufacture and sale of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower.
Despite the mounting litigation and large verdicts, Johnson & Johnson has resisted calls to negotiate talcum powder cancer settlements so far, indicating that it will continue to defend claims in courts nationwide. However, a steady stream of additional trials are scheduled over the coming months.