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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, a New York woman indicate that she developed ovarian cancer following years of exposure to talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower powder, which were used on a regular basis for “feminine hygiene.”
Amy Khan filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on December 14, indicating that Johnson & Johnson should have placed a warning on its talcum powder products about the ovarian cancer risks so that women could make an informed decision about their health.
Khan indicates that she used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for her entire life, placing the talc powder around her genitals, like millions of other women do as part of their daily routine. The lawsuit indicates that it was a practice that began with Khan’s mother, who used it on her as a child.
In March 2016, Khan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which she indicates was directly and proximately caused by the talc contained in the products. As a result of the cancer, she had to undergo chemotherapy, flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy, and wedge resection of a right lower lobe lung lesion.
“Defendants had a duty to know and warn about the hazards associated with the use of the Products,” the 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.
Khan’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.