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A California woman has filed a product liability lawsuit alleging that years of talcum powder exposure caused her to face a risk of ovarian cancer, which Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately disclose on the warning labels of Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower products.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Vivian Cruz in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on October 12, highlighting decades of studies linking talcum powder use around a woman’s genitals to a potential ovarian cancer risk.
Cruz indicates that she has been exposed to Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower powder on a regular basis since she was born in 1970. As a result of the exposure, the lawsuit claims she developed ovarian cancer, and required total abdominal hysterectomy, pelvic mass resection, omentectomy, bilateral pelvic lymph node dissection, bilateral periaortic lymph node dissection, and pelvic washings.
Although Johnson & Johnson has known about the potential side effects, the complaint notes that no warnings about the ovarian cancer risk from talcum powder made it onto the labels of the widely used products.
“Plaintiff continued to use the Products following her initial diagnosis of ovarian cancer as she did not know, or have reason to know, normal use of the products could cause ovarian cancer,” Cruz’s lawsuit states. “There was never any indication, on the Products, packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause Plaintiff to have developed or to develop ovarian cancer.”
Over the past few years, a number of those cases have gone before state court juries, with many resulting in multi-million dollar damage awards as a result of 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.
Cruz’s case will be consolidated with other federal lawsuits, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in the District of New Jersey, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Given similar questions of fact and law, the cases have been are being coordinated 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 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.