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Following a lifetime of exposure to talcum powder, which was applied around the genitals for feminine hygiene over a period of more than six decades, an 86 year old woman indicates that she has been left with ovarian cancer, according to allegations raised in a recent lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Opie Lalun Forbes in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 27, indicating that she regularly used Shower-to-Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder to dust her perineum from about 1950 to 2016.
The lawsuit alleges that Johnson & Johnson, as well as Imerys Talc America and the Personal Care Products Council, failed to adequately warn women about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, indicating that she would not have purchased or used the products if intentional misrepresentations and inaccurate factual statements had not been made.
Forbes indicates that was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July 2015, and maintains that Johnson & Johnson was aware of evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer since at least 1971. However, the manufacturer has continued to withhold important safety information from women who use the products daily.
“Since 1982, there have been more than twenty-seven (27) additional epidemiologic studies providing data regarding the association of talc and ovarian cancer,” Forbes’ lawsuit states. “Nearly all of these studies have reported an elevated risk for ovarian cancer associated with genital talc use in women.”
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.
Forbes’ lawsuit will be consolidated with other claims pending in the federal court system, 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.