A Missouri jury ruled against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) on Thursday, awarding more than $110 million to a Virginia woman who accused the health care product giant of failing to properly disclose the cancer risks associated with its talcum powder products. Thursday’s talcum powder lawsuit verdict is the largest to date.
Lois Slemp, 62, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and filed a talcum powder lawsuit against J&J shortly thereafter, alleging the company concealed the risk of cancer associated with feminine hygiene use of talcum powder. Originally diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Slemp is currently undergoing chemotherapy after the cancer spread to her liver. Her case was expedited in lieu of her declining health.
In her baby powder lawsuit against J&J, which also lists J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys, as a defendant, Slemp claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using its’ baby powder products for roughly 40 years.
After deliberating for over a full day, the jury sided with Slemp, awarding her $5.4 million in compensatory damages. The jury found that J&J was liable for 99 percent and Imerys’ liability was just one percent. The jury also awarded punitive damages of $105 million against J&J, and $50,000 against Imerys. The trial took place before Missouri Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison, who also presided over the four previous talcum powder lawsuits in the state.
In a statement following the talcum powder lawsuit verdict, J&J said the company sympathized with women suffering from cancer but will immediately begin the process of appealing Thursday’s verdict.
Talc is a mineral primarily comprised of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. The mineral is structurally similar to asbestos, a known carcinogen. Until the early 1970s, some talcum products were actually contaminated with asbestos.
When talc is ground up and used as the base for talcum powder, the mineral absorbs moisture and reduces friction, which is why the mineral is so widely used in personal hygiene products, cosmetic products and many other consumer goods.
But according to the Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit, if talcum powder is used on the genitals, talc particles can easily migrate from the vagina into the ovaries, where they remain trapped. These trapped talc particles can cause inflammation, which can lead to the growth of cancer cells.
A number of studies have pointed to the connection between talcum powder use for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer. According to an investigative report conducted by Bloomberg, scientists found out about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer in the early 1970s.
Since 1982, there have been at least 20 other epidemiological studies finding that long term use of baby powder for feminine hygiene increases the risk of ovarian cancer. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), one of the most respected cancer authorities in the world, has classified talc as a “possible human carcinogen.”
Despite many studies connecting talcum powder to ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson has never issued a warning to American consumers about the potential adverse health risks. Even when scientists with the National Toxicology Program (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) voted 13-2 to list feminine hygiene use of talcum powder as a possible human carcinogen, Johnson & Johnson chose to deny the ovarian cancer link and refused to put warning labels on its line of baby powder products.
Johnson &Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdict Points to Continued Legal Woes
J&J’s failure to inform consumers about the link between talcum powder and cancer has given rise to roughly 2,400 talcum powder lawsuits against the company. Many of these lawsuits are pending in St. Louis, where J&J’s losses in four previous trials have cost them and their talc supplier nearly $200 million in verdicts
In a related matter, Johnson & Johnson is facing multiple class-action lawsuits at the federal level related to the talcum powder issue, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
With Thursday’s landmark verdict, the uptick in claims against J&J is likely to continue. J&J has already lost a number of cases making similar allegations, including verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million since 2016. In a few days, the Missouri Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments challenging the first talcum powder verdict reached last year in St. Louis, when plaintiff Jacqueline Fox was awarded $72 million.
Baum Hedlund is Representing Victims Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is representing clients from across the country in talcum powder cancer lawsuits. If you used baby powder products from Johnson & Johnson for feminine hygiene and were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. To speak with a personal injury attorney about your claim, call (855) 948-5098 today for a free case evaluation or fill out our contact form.