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Talcum Powder Lawsuit Filed Over High Grade Serous Carcinoma Diagnosis

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After using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products for most of her life, a Massachusetts woman has filed a product liability lawsuit indicating that Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower exposure resulted in the diagnosis of high grade serous carcinoma, which is a type of ovarian cancer. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed last month by Cathleen Norton in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, indicating that Johnson & Johnson, Imerys Talc America, and the Personal Care Products Council failed to warn adult women about the risks associated with applying talcum powder around the genitals

According to the lawsuit, Norton has used Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for nearly 30 years. She was diagnosed with high grade serous carcinoma of the right ovary in July 2015.

The complaint raises allegations similar to those presented in several thousand Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought by women nationwide over the past few years, indicating that talc contained in the products may migrate through the vagina following regular and long-term use, causing the development of ovarian cancer.

“Although the labels on the bottles for the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson Shower to Shower products have changed over time, the core message has been the same: that women can safely use the products on their bodies including their genital areas,” the lawsuit states.

Over the past few years, a number of talcum powder ovarian cancer cases have gone before state court juries, with many resulting in multi-million dollar damage awards over 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.

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in other cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in the District of New Jersey, before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson. Known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL), the federal cases have been centralized 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 coordinated 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.

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