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The family of a Florida woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the 44 year old mother died due to ovarian cancer caused by talcum powder.
Robert Sheridan filed the complaint (pdf) in Delaware Superior Court on August 22, on behalf of himself and his two minor children, indicating that his wife, Jennifer Hayden, used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower body powder for years before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit also names Imerys Talc, U.S. Borax, Inc. Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc. and Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America as defendants, indicating that the talcum powder was marketed to adult women for feminine hygiene purposes, even though the defendants knew or should have known use of talk around the genitals may carry serious risks.
Hayden used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower to dust her perineum since in about 1990, following years of marketing that encouraged adult women to use the products to maintain a “fresh” feeling throughout the day and prevent odors. Following decades of use, Hayden was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April 2015, and died at the age of only 44 on August 22, 2015.
According to allegations raised by the family in the talc wrongful death lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson knew for years that about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, not only did the company fail to warn the public about the risks, but it encouraged women to use their products in a way that increased that risk, by applying it directly to their genitals.
“Johnson & Johnson induced women through advertisements to dust themselves with its product to mask feminine odors,” the lawsuit alleges. “The bottle of ‘Johnson’s Baby Powder’ specifically targets women by stating, ‘For you, use every day to help feel soft, fresh, and comfortable.’ 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.”
Johnson & Johnson faces several thousand similar Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits, each raising similar allegations that talc contained in the products migrated through the vagina following regular and long-term use, causing the development of ovarian cancer.
There have been at least five massive multimillion dollar verdicts against Johnson & Johnson over failure to warn about the risks associated with talcum powder, including a $417 million verdict awarded to a woman earlier this month.
Sheridan’s case is filed in Delaware state court. However, many others pending in the federal court system have been centralized as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which has been established to address the growing number of complaints that raise nearly identical questions of fact and law.
U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson is presiding over the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings in the District of New Jersey. However, if Johnson & Johnson fails to reach talc powder settlements or otherwise resolve the litigation following the MDL proceedings, those cases may be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates in the future.