L.A. jury awards $417 million in Johnson & Johnson talc powder case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Johnson & Johnson has sustained another major judicial loss in its defense of its talcum powder product.

On Aug. 22, the New York Times reported, “In what may be the largest award so far in a lawsuit tying ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a medical receptionist who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s trademark Johnson’s Baby Powder on her perineum for decades.”

Eva Echeverria, 63, of East Los Angeles, was the plaintiff in the case, “one of thousands of women who have sued the consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson claiming baby powder caused their disease, pointing to studies linking talc to cancer that date to 1971, when scientists in Wales discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors.”

National Courts Monitor has charted the lawsuits across the United States against the company. In July, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to women “who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.”

The Aug. 20 award in California prompted a vow to appeal.

“A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich, said the company would appeal the verdict handed up by a jury in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and was preparing for additional trials,” according to the New York Times.

More lawsuits expected over J&J talcum powder in 2018

Photo credit: Alf van Beem via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Alf van Beem via Wikimedia Commons

Johnson & Johnson returned to the courtroom in January to face more litigation over allegations that its talcum products caused cancer.

The pharmaceutical company’s lawyers entered a Middlesex County, N.J. courtroom for opening statements in a lawsuit “alleging that the company’s talc products caused an Essex County man to develop cancer,” reported NJ.com, which provides content to New Jersey’s leading newspaper, The Star-Ledger.

“A Stephen Lanzo, III, 46, of Verona, alleges that his use of Johnson’s Baby Powder throughout his life exposed him to asbestos, which lead him to develop mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects tissue in the lungs and abdomen. … The plaintiff and defense said they plan to utilize many expert testimonies throughout the trial, which is slated to run through the end of February,” the site reported.

Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs anticipated more litigation.

Distinguished Emeritus Professor Jean Eggen at Widener University Delaware Law School, Wilmington, Del., saw the potential for “large-scale litigation,” he told Bloomberg BNA.

Eggen said that, “because of varying claims, sources of talc, and causation hurdles, this latest wave of talc cases against J&J will be both easier and harder to litigate than both traditional asbestos suits involving insulation materials, and the ovarian cancer cases the company is already fighting. And with several multimillion-dollar verdicts having been handed down against other makers of older talc products recently, the Johnson and Johnson asbestos-in-talc litigation is expected to be both protracted and contentious, drawing in many other plaintiffs. …”

L.A. Jury Awards Record $417 Million In Talc Cancer Case


The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The Los Angeles Times is among those reporting on a $417-million verdict against Johnson & Johnson over the company’s talc product, In effect, the jury found the company liable because it did not warn a 63-year-old woman diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer about the talcum cancer risks.
The Times noted that “… verdict marks the largest award yet in a number of suits claiming that the company’s talc powder causes ovarian cancer. More than 300 lawsuits are pending in California and more than 4,500 claims in the rest of the country, alleging that the healthcare giant ignored studies linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to cancer.”
The company says it will appeal, insisting that science is on its side. But the Times explained that the L.A. lawsuit “… cited a 1982 study that shows women who used talc on their genitals were at a 92% increased risk for ovarian cancer. The lead researcher, Daniel W. Cramer, later advised Johnson & Johnson to put a warning label on the product.”
The newspaper also backgrounded that “… ovarian cancer accounts for 1.3% of all new cancer cases in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. But it is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Fewer than half of all patients survive five years after a diagnosis.”

Read the LAT report here: L.A. jury hits Johnson & Johnson with $417-million verdict over cancer link to its talc