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Following a three-week trial in St. Louis, jurors are now deliberating over whether Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn women about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, when products like Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower are used for feminine hygiene purposes.
Closing arguments were held Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court for a Johnson’s talcum powder lawsuit brought by Gloria Ristesund, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011, following use of the company’s talc-based baby powder products for more than 40 years.
While baby powder is most commonly associated with use among infants to avoid diaper rash and maintain smooth skin, it has been promoted by the manufacturer for decades as a general body powder for adult women, who were encouraged to use talcum powder after every shower and place it in their underwear to maintain “personal freshness”. Given the popularity among adult women, Shower-to-Shower body powder was introduced for this specific purpose.
The case brought by Ristesund is one about 2,000 Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits pending throughout the U.S., each involving similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson knew or should have known about the ovarian cancer risk from talcum powder when it is applied around a woman’s genitals, yet failed to provide any warnings.
This latest trial follows a verdict in February, when another jury in St. Louis ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Jackie Fox, who died of ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for years. That award included $10 million in compensatory damages for the family, as well as $62 million in punitive damages, which were designed to punish the manufacturer based on evidence that they withheld information about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Internal company memos and documents presented at trial in the Fox case highlighted how the manufacturer knew about the potential risk for years, and told its own consultants that there was a connection. However, the only talcum powder warnings provided for women suggest that users only need to worry about avoiding contact with their eyes, inhaling the powder or applying to areas of broken skin.
After this jury has reached a verdict, another trial is expected to begin later this month, involving claims brought by Tenesha Farrar, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013.
As more women and families discover that ovarian cancer diagnosed in recent years may be linked to use of Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower, a growing number of cases are continuing to be filed nationwide. In many cases, evidence of talc is found in ovarian tumors.
It is ultimately expected that thousands of additional lawsuits will be brought against Johnson & Johnson. If the company fails to reach talcum powder settlements for women with ovarian cancer, they could face a steady stream of jury trials in the coming years, potentially facing billions in liability.