On August 21, 2017, a Los Angeles jury awarded a record $417 million to a California woman whose talcum powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson alleged that she developed ovarian cancer after decades of using the company’s talcum powder products.
Record Talcum Powder Lawsuit Award
In Echeverria et al v. Johnson & Johnson, Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC628228, Eva Echeverria, 63, claimed to have developed ovarian cancer in 2007 after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products for feminine hygiene from the 1950s to 2016. Her talcum powder lawsuit alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew its products had potential ovarian cancer risks but that the company did not adequately warn its customers. Ms. Echeverria is currently undergoing treatment while hospitalized.
The jury’s $417 million award is the largest such verdict against the health care products giant thus far, exceeding the previous record of $110.5 million awarded by a St. Louis jury in May. Three other plaintiffs also received a combined total of $307.6 million.
The jury’s award to Ms. Echeverria included $68 million in compensatory damages and $340 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct. In building Ms. Echeverria’s case, her attorney presented internal documents from Johnson & Johnson over several decades that allegedly showed that the company was aware of the link between their products and ovarian cancer, therefore exposing them to punitive damages.
Because of these claims, Johnson & Johnson is facing approximately 1,200 lawsuits from customers alleging that the company did not inform them about the risks of their talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson, whose public statements have continued to insist that its products are safe, is appealing Ms. Echeverria’s verdict as well as the prior ones. Also according to its most recent public statements prior to the publication of this article, the company has refused to settle any of the other lawsuits.
Link Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
While Johnson & Johnson maintains that its talcum powder-containing products are not carcinogenic, approximately two dozen studies over the past three decades have found a 20-to 40-percent increased risk of ovarian cancer amongst talcum powder users. Other studies, however, suggest the link remains debatable.
According to the American Cancer Society, talc, the primary ingredient in talcum powder, sometimes contains asbestos in its natural form, which is known to be linked to cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled. The American Cancer Society’s website, however, says “All talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s,” while the Food and Drug Administration states that it has not found any asbestos in the products it has checked.
The evidence about asbestos-free talc is unclear though, according to the American Cancer Society, with some studies on animals linking talc to tumors and others not.
Ovarian cancer is relatively rare, affecting about 21,000 American women per year. Most cases are fatal because of late diagnosis, and it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death for women. While ovarian cancer has genetic components in some instances, doctors do not know what causes it in most cases.
The National Cancer Institute lists talcum as a risk factor for ovarian cancer, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer division of the World Health Organization, says the genital use of talcum powder could possibly be carcinogenic.
Talcum Powder Litigation
As you may see, talcum powder litigation can be complicated. It can require subpoenaing a company’s internal documents and communications and obtaining expert medical testimony. But if you or someone you love is suffering from ovarian cancer that may have been caused by talcum powder, you may find that you benefit from the guidance of an experienced litigation attorney, like the litigation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers, who can help you get the justice you deserve.