Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder might be one of the most recognizable products in the United States today, but decades of mounting evidence have shown the talc in baby powder can cause ovarian cancer. With more than 20 epidemiological studies confirming the link between the talc in baby powder and ovarian cancer, thousands of women are trying to hold Johnson & Johnson (J&J) responsible.
For decades, J&J has promoted baby powder for the use of preventing foul vaginal odors and reducing chaffing between the legs. Internal documents from the company dating from 1992 indicate J&J knew about the link between talc and ovarian cancer, but actively sought to overcome growing distrust of the product with new marketing campaigns.
In 2013, the first talcum powder lawsuit went to trial claiming J&J failed to warn consumers of the risks of using baby powder with talc. The plaintiff, Deane Berg, developed ovarian cancer after more than 30 years of talcum powder use around her groin. Ms. Berg was offered a settlement on the condition that she sign a non-disclosure agreement. Ms. Berg refused to be silenced, and she took her case to trial where a jury found J&J guilty of gross negligence. Ms. Berg paved the way for future talcum powder lawsuits.
The second lawsuit to go to trial concluded February 2016 when a jury found J&J guilty of failing to warn consumers of the risks associated with talcum powder. The plaintiff, Jackie Fox, developed ovarian cancer after using J&J’s baby powder with talc for decades for feminine hygiene. While Ms. Fox lost her battle with cancer before seeing J&J held responsible, her family was awarded $72 million in damages.
Just months later in May, the third talcum powder lawsuit also found J&J guilty of failure to warn. The plaintiff was a Missouri woman who developed ovarian cancer from talcum powder use. The plaintiff was awarded $55 million in damages.
The fourth baby powder cancer trial began this in October 2016 with plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini fighting to hold Johnson & Johnson (J&J) responsible for its negligence. Mrs. Giannecchini used J&J’s baby powder products around her groin for feminine hygiene almost daily dating as far back as 1967. In 2012, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Mrs. Giannecchini stated that if the company had warned her about the ovarian cancer risk, she would have not used its products.
J&J tried to postpone Mrs. Giannecchini’s trial just one week before it began by requesting the case be transferred to federal court, however a St. Louis judge denied the transfer and allowed the trial to begin. The jury concluded the plaintiff’s long-term use of baby powder for feminine hygiene caused her ovarian cancer, and awarded her $70 million in damages. For the first time, J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys Talc America Inc., was also found guilty of failing to warn consumers and contributing to the development of cancer, and was ordered to pay $2.5 million of the $70 million award.
2017 and Beyond
In the sixth baby powder case to go to trial and the fifth case in the same St. Louis courtroom, a Virginia woman prevailed against healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for failing to warn consumers of the cancer risk associated with its baby powder products in May 2017. The jury found J&J’s products caused the woman’s ovarian cancer and awarded her $110.5 million.
The seventh trial in the litigation occurred in a California court. Eva Echeverria used J&J’s baby powder products for feminine hygiene on a daily basis beginning in the 1950s. Unfortunately, Ms. Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007 and has undergone extensive treatment to fight the cancer. She was unable to attend her trial because is still undergoing treatment. Jurors awarded Ms. Echeverria $68 million in compensatory damages and $340 million in punitive damages designed to punish J&J for its negligence.