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As a growing number of lawsuits continue to be filed against Johnson & Johnson by women and families nationwide, alleging that side effects of talcum powder used for feminine hygiene purposes caused the development of ovarian cancer, a request has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to centralize the litigation before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
While talcum powder is most commonly associated with use to help prevent diaper rash and maintain smooth skin, Johnson & Johnson has promoted their Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products for decades as a general body powder among adult women, who were encouraged to use talcum powder after every shower and place it in their underwear to maintain “personal freshness.”
According to allegations raised in Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the manufacturer failed to warn women that talc contained in the powder may migrate through the vagina and increase the risk of ovarian cancer, with many complaints indicating that evidence of talc was found in ovarian cancer following decades of using the powder on a daily basis in their underwear or around their genitals.
In a motion to transfer (PDF) filed on July 15, plaintiff Tanashiska Lumas indicates that given the similarities between the cases filed nationwide, the talcum powder litigation should be transferred to one judge to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Lumas has proposed that the cases be transferred to U.S. District Judge David Herndon in the Southern District of Illinois, who has previously presided over a number of complex mass tort litigations, including thousands of lawsuits over Yaz, Yasmin and other similar birth control products, as well as Pradaxa lawsuits.
There are currently at least 11 ovarian cancer lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson in 10 different federal district courts nationwide, according to the motion. However, there are several thousand similar cases filed at the state level nationwide, and it is widely expected that the number of claims pursued in the federal court system will increase as talcum powder lawyers continue to review and file additional claims for women and families of individuals who died.
So far this year, at least two talcum powder ovarian cancer cases have gone to trial in state court, with each case resulting in a multi-million dollar damage award after evidence was presented about Johnson & Johnson’s failure to provide appropriate talcum powder warnings for women.
Another state court trial is scheduled to go before a jury in St. Louis in February 2017, but a growing number of complaints have been filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide in recent months. The motion to transfer indicates that of the 11 cases filed at the federal level, nine were filed this year and are in their earliest stages, making them ideal for consolidation.
Talcum Powder Cancer Risks
A number of studies have indicated that talcum powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer when applied to a woman’s genitals. At least one study even found particles of talc at the center of ovarian tumors.
Despite the findings, Johnson & Johnson has refused to provide warnings for women using their products about the link between talc and ovarian cancer, apparently doubling down on the decision to ignore the potential risk for decades.
Evidence presented at recent trials included company documents that suggested Johnson & Johnson was aware of the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer since the 1970s. However, even as recently as 1992, some documents indicate that the company specifically targeted sales towards women who were high users of talcum powder, without ever warning them of the possible cancer risks.
If additional juries respond with similar verdicts after considering the evidence, Johnson & Johnson could face substantial liability if talcum powder ovarian cancer settlements are not reached to resolve individual claims brought by women and families throughout the U.S.