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Judge Upholds J&J $186 Million Punitive Award in Talc Asbestos Lawsuit
June 29, 2020 - Johnson & Johnson’s bid to escape a $186 million punitive award over its sale of baby powder was thrown out by a New Jersey state judge. The court cited the pharmaceutical company’s “direct lies” to consumers and regulators regarding its baby powder allegedly contaminated with asbestos.
Judge Ana C Viscomi denied the company’s motions to reduce the compensation, saying jurors could find by “clear and convincing evidence presented” that J&J engaged in a series of misdeeds. She also noted that the company lied to the FDA by “editing unfavorable test results from reports” and lied to consumers by claiming a cleansing procedure “removed all impurities” from its talc powder products.
“J&J’s conduct here was reprehensible,” Judge Viscomi said while issuing her decisions, later adding: “ The award, modified by the Punitive Damages Act, is not so clearly disproportionate to the injury and does not shock the conscience of the court.”
The judge later reduced each punitive award due to the state’s statutory cap on punitive damages to make it five times the amount of the respective compensatory verdict. Viscomi elaborated on her reasons for denying J&J’s motions for a mistrial, including the company’s mistrial bid over the judge’s ruling to strike the closing argument of then J&J attorney Diane Sullivan.
Judge Viscomi indicated that she struck the closing argument after Sullivan had ignored the judge’s admonishments throughout the trial.
“Counsel was warned what would happen if she continued her conduct. It was her choice to make,” said the judge, adding that Sullivan “chose to continue willful violations of court orders.”
A spokesperson from J&J did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Talcum powder is the primary ingredient in Baby Powder, a staple product of the American household. Despite decades of claims that the product was both safe and effective, studies have shown that talcum powder and talc-based Baby Powder can put users at risk of life-threatening illnesses, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. If you or a loved one habitually used baby powder and subsequently developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, you may be eligible to participate in a talcum powder lawsuit. Contact an experienced talcum powder lawyer from TorHoerman Law to determine whether you qualify for a Baby Powder lawsuit.
Talc is the common ingredient in the soft, sweet-smelling powder products used on babies’ bottoms and by women in an effort to keep their skin dry and avoid rashes. Talcum powder is made from talc, a combination of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Links have been made between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, which has led to thousands of talcum powder lawsuit cases.
Some powders absorb moisture better than others. One of the most absorbent and widely used is talcum powder, a substance made from grinding up the clay mineral, talc. Talcum powder is a popular ingredient used in baby powder for preventing diaper rash.
Talcum powder particles are so small and lightweight that many people inhale the powder unknowingly. It then gets stuck in the body, damaging the lungs and other organs over time. Lawyers and medical professionals are currently investigating talcum powder for causing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. If you’ve suffered an injury from using a talc product, you can benefit from filing a talcum powder lawsuit.
People have used talcum powder around the world for centuries. It is not exclusive to any industry or brand. Talcum powder is most suitable as a drying agent, and some users even treat it as an offhand tool by washing their hair with it or keeping surfaces dry. Nowadays, the airy mineral is used most often in the following products:
If you look at talcum powder on its own, it looks just like baby powder. That’s because it is the main ingredient in many baby powders along with cornstarch. In fact the physical properties of talcum powder make it an alternative to brand name baby powder on its own.
The most famous talcum baby powder is made by Johnson & Johnson, a product they’ve sold for over 100 years. It’s intended for babies but is popular for all ages. Controversy has surrounded Johnson & Johnson baby powder after thousands of its users have claimed that the powder caused them to develop adverse health effects such as cancer and mesothelioma. Researchers believe these injuries to be caused by the talcum powder.
Talc companies will market the mineral as “pure” or “organic” but fail to ensure the quality of their product. As a result, some talcum powder contains harmful impurities, namely asbestos, a known carcinogen. Inhalation of asbestos can damage the lungs over time and lead to fatal complications. If you’ve noticed a change in your respiratory health after using baby powder, call a talcum powder lawyer soon.
The side effects of talcum powder include irritation of the skin or throat, coughing, vomiting, and convulsions. Most side effects are more common in infants than in adults. While these symptoms are mild, they may be indicative of a more serious illness, especially the respiratory symptoms. It’s recommended you contact a doctor and a talcum powder lawyer if you start to experience talc side effects.
Using baby powder and other products containing talcum powder puts the user at risk of developing serious injury. Talcum powder particles are so small and mobile that they can enter the body without the person knowing. The particles are not easily filtered, thus disrupting the body’s natural processes and damaging internal organs. Talcum powder injuries have been the basis of thousands of lawsuits in recent years.
The primary injuries being investigated are ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Both diseases can be fatal if left untreated. Since cancer and mesothelioma can take years to show symptoms, their link to using baby powder is not always clear. Your doctor can perform the necessary tests to see if you’ve developed these serious illnesses. They will also ask you certain questions to see if you’ve been exposed to talcum powder products in the past.
Other injuries being attributed to talcum baby powder are pneumonia, lung cancer, talcosis, and endometrial cancer. For any injury you think was caused by using baby powder or another talc product, you may be eligible for a talcum powder lawsuit
Ovarian cancer is rare but has been linked to using talcum powder products on or near the vagina. Studies suggest that women who use baby powder in this way have a 30% increased risk of acquiring ovarian cancer. Similar to the respiration problems caused by talcum powder, the particles stay trapped in the ovaries and damage the cells until cancer forms.
Ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, frequent urination, and discomfort near the pelvis. Epithelial tumors are the most common type. The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age. If you’re currently using baby powder or another talc product on the pelvis area, consider the risks before continuing. You may want to join the thousands of other women filing talcum powder lawsuits for ovarian cancer.
As early as the 1970s, scientists began looking at the connection between the dusting of female genitals with talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Based on the marketing of these products for use on babies and as a feminine ritual, most people assume that such a common household item is safe to use.
It is imperative that women are warned about the risk of using talcum powder in their daily feminine hygiene routine! Increasing evidence suggests that this staple of bathrooms and nurseries for generations may be linked to ovarian cancer.
A recent study shows that women who commonly apply talc products [to the vaginal area] have a 33% increased chance of developing cancer.
Mesothelioma is a lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos. The main characteristic of mesothelioma is fluid buildup on the lining of the lungs. Asbestos is used in some insulations, floor tiles, and old machinery. Sometimes, however, talcum powder contains small amounts of asbestos that go overlooked by the manufacturers. Baby powder labels omit any warnings that the product may contain asbestos.
Mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, dry cough, fever, muscle weakness, and trouble breathing. These symptoms don’t appear for decades. Your doctor can perform x-rays, blood tests, and biopsies to test for mesothelioma.
While the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma is well-established, the controversy regarding mesothelioma and talcum powder focuses on which brands have a defective product. If a specific brand of talcum powder has caused you or someone you know to be injured, please contact a talcum powder lawyer quickly.
If you habitually used talcum powder and subsequently developed mesothelioma, you may want to contact a mesothelioma lawyer to discuss the possibility of filing a Baby Powder mesothelioma lawsuit.
Research relating asbestos-free baby powder to cancer is conflicting, but the investigation is ongoing. Some studies suggest that baby powder increases the risk of uterine cancer. Other studies show that talcum powder increases the risk of lung cancer but only in talc miners, not baby powder consumers. The government has taken steps to reduce asbestos exposure since the 1970s, but they are yet to intervene with talcum powder. The World Health Organization classifies asbestos as carcinogenic but has not ruled the same for pure talcum powder.
Nonetheless, many baby powder manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson warn buyers not to inhale the powder. Other baby powder companies have even added warning labels for ovarian cancer. Taking preventative measures to phase out talc is crucial because cancers become less treatable the further they progress.
Plaintiffs have filed more than 17,000 lawsuits against baby powder makers over the injuries caused by the unassuming product. The lawsuits allege that the manufacturers knew of the health risks posed by their product but continued to sell it. Some of these injuries have cost the victims thousands in medical bills and other damages. The process of diagnosing baby powder injuries is especially hard for patients because the connection to baby powder is not immediately obvious. By raising awareness and giving information to a baby powder lawyer, you may be able to receive compensation along with helping the many other victims.
Johnson & Johnson is the dominant seller of baby powder and is facing lawsuits from all over the country. Since 2016, talcum powder lawsuits have resulted in some sizable settlements. The company was hit with a $4.7 billion verdict in 2018, where 22 women sued for J&J’s baby powder causing their cancer. It was the biggest payout yet. Other baby powder lawsuits have raked in as much as $117 million for the plaintiff, that one being a case in April of 2018. J&J has succumbed to the legal pressure and announced on May 20, 2020 that they would stop making their well-known baby powder.
For the latest info on talcum powder settlements, visit the litigation updates area at the top and bottom of the page.
Most baby powder lawsuits have been individual cases, though at least four class action lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson for baby powder injuries. Two of them were successful. The class action lawsuits have focused on ovarian cancer, but cases of mesothelioma and other severe injuries may still call for a lawsuit.
Johnson & Johnson continue to deny that their baby powder causes any form of cancer. They have also avoided updating the labels on their powder to reflect these health concerns. If you have been injured by any talcum powder brand, ask a talcum powder lawyer about your options, including a talcum powder lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma or ovarian cancer subsequent to using talcum powder or talc-based baby powder, you may qualify to participate in a talcum powder lawsuit.
Contact a talcum powder lawyer from TorHoerman Law about the possibility of filing a Baby Powder lawsuit and other legal options. At TorHoerman Law, we offer free no-obligation talcum powder case consultations for all potential clients.
Before taking the initial steps for filing a baby powder lawsuit, you need to ensure that you mitigate injury by seeking proper medical treatment and following any orders that your doctor tells you.
After seeking proper medical attention, your next step is to familiarize yourself with the process of a civil lawsuit, so that you are aware of the steps involved in a your baby powder lawsuit.
Then, you should hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you as your talcum powder lawyer.
Your talcum powder lawyer will help you to gather evidence, determine damages, establish liability and gain compensation for your talcum powder injuries.
Hiring a talcum powder lawyer to represent you in your baby powder lawsuit is one of the most important decisions that you will make.
You want to be sure that you hire a talcum powder lawyer who is experienced in personal injury lawsuits, toxic tort lawsuits, and product liability lawsuits.
Feel comfortable asking potential talcum powder lawyers as many questions as you see fit. Ask about their experience, fees, and anything else you might be concerned about.
At TorHoerman Law, we have team of experienced talcum powder lawyers available to discuss your potential talcum powder lawsuit for free and with no obligation required.
TorHoerman Law works on a contingency fee basis for all talcum powder lawsuit clients – so we don’t ask for payment unless our clients get compensation for their talcum powder injuries.
Contact us to learn how TorHoerman Law talcum powder lawyers can help you.
June 23, 2020: A U.S. appeals court has rejected Johnson & Johnson’s bid to throw out a jury verdict in favor of women who blamed their ovarian cancer on its baby powder and other talcum products. However, the court did reduce the damages award from $4.69 billion to $2.12 billion.
The decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals, in a case brought by 22 women, followed J&J’s announcement on May 19 that it would stop selling its talc Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada. The plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson published articles downplaying the hazards associated with talcum powder.
The company pledged to appeal this decision to the Missouri Supreme Court, the state’s highest court.
“This was a fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts,” spokeswoman Kim Montagnino said.
“We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, which is why the facts are so important. We remain confident that our talc is safe, asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 19,000 lawsuits claiming that its talc products caused cancer because of contamination from asbestos.
June 2, 2020 - Claims that Johnson & Johnson’s famous talc-based baby powder has caused cancer are mounting. J&J pulled the product from shelves last month, but a look similar litigations suggest the talcum battle will last years or even decades.
Thousands of baby powder consumers who have developed ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other injuries are attributing their illness to J&J’s product. Cancer takes years to develop, which means new claims are expected to appear well into the future.
Asbestos settlements have demonstrated why diseases with a delayed onset make the lawsuit process more complicated. Lawyers in a mass tort litigation know that there will be more victims in the future but can only work with those who have already gotten sick. It also makes finding scientific evidence a longer and more rigorous endeavor.
The company’s decision to pull the product from shelves was very strategic, according to Jean Eggen, professor at Widener University Delaware Law School: “I felt J&J definitely is sending a strong signal that they’re interested in minimizing their litigation liabilities… I could see settlements in existing litigation as the next step.” Johnson & Johnson representatives have already denied that removing the product was related to the lawsuits.
It’s hard to predict how discontinuing the baby powder will play out in trial. The subsequent remedial measures doctrine says that removal of a defective product cannot be used to prove that the product was necessarily defective. On the other hand, jurors may still view the pull as damaging to the defendants.
Some asbestos companies have thoughtfully picked their battles, winning lung cancer claims but settling with mesothelioma lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson may go a similar route.
If you or someone you know has developed cancer or another injury after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, contact a talcum powder lawyer to see if you’re eligible for compensation.
May 22, 2020 - A mesothelioma talc lawsuit filed on Wednesday against Chanel in New York state court alleges that Chanel’s talc-based after-birth products caused a woman’s mesothelioma.
The plaintiff, Dolores Gomez, used Chanel talc-based after-birth products for 30 years as a routine hygiene product. According to the lawsuit, Chanel, Publix, and Woolworth (now Footlocker) were aware of the presence of asbestos in its product but failed to adequately warn the public about the dangerous chemical’s presence.
"The defendants' products failed to contain, and continue to this day not to contain, adequate warnings and/or instructions regarding the increased risk of mesothelioma with the use of their products by women," Gomez said. "The defendants continue to market, advertise and expressly represent to the general public that it is safe for women to use their product regardless of application."
Gomez went on to state that safer alternatives to the defendants’ talc-based products exist – these cornstarch-based alternatives produced similar effectiveness to talc-based products. Yet, the defendants continue to market talc-based products as safe and effective.
Gomez argued that the companies’ decades’ long failures and attempts to hide contaminates in talc-based products put her and other consumers at risk. Since the 1930s, scientific research has indicated the presence of asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in talc.
"Within the next several decades, an ever-growing body of medical and scientific literature demonstrated that direct and secondary exposure to talc, including asbestos-containing talc, was hazardous to exposed person's health in that it could cause lung disease, cancer, and death," Gomez said.
She went on to state that the manufacturers failed to disclose to the FDA that they were not testing their products for asbestos or testing at a superficial level. According to Gomez, the defendants did not disclose to the FDA that they were not testing off-the-shelf talc powder products, but only batch samples that were never from the end product.
May 19, 2020 - Johnson and Johnson announced earlier this week that the company will discontinue talc-based Baby Powder sales in the U.S. and Canada - a decision resulting from dwindling product sales and mounting safety concerns related to the talc-based product.
J&J faces a slew of talc powder lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim that J&J talc-based Baby Powder put consumers at increased risk of cancer without warning.
“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” J&J said Tuesday in a statement.
Despite their continued safety claims, J&J has paid out billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts related to talc powder lawsuits. Thousands of additional talc powder lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer. As of March, nearly 19,400 plaintiffs had filed talc powder lawsuits in U.S. courts alone.
Although J&J has made the decision to remove talc-based Baby Powder from North American shelves, representatives of the company say this is no indication that they plan to ease up on their continued safety claims in regards to the talc powder lawsuits filed against them.
The company will continue to sell cornstarch-based Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada as well as talc-based and cornstarch-based Baby Powder in markets abroad.
J&J plans to slow down commercialization of talc-based Baby Powder in North America over the next few months; all existing inventory in the U.S. will be sold to retailers until supplies diminish completely.
February 25, 2020 - On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson reached a pretrial settlement with an asbestos talc lawsuit plaintiff that claimed that the company’s flagship product, baby powder, caused her mesothelioma.
62-year-old Laura Shanahan and her attorneys were preparing for opening arguments that never came in the New York Supreme Court asbestos talc powder lawsuit.
After completing pre-trial jury instructions, Justice Barbara Jaffe along with Shanahan and J&J’s attorneys met briefly in the judge’s chambers. They emerged moments later, announcing that both sides had come to a currently-undisclosed settlement agreement.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the decision to settle to the Manhattan jury.
Additional information regarding the settlement has not been released.
January 30, 2020 - Johnson & Johnson, Bausch Health Co., Walgreens Co., Target and a number of other retailers were named defendants in a California Prop 65 talc lawsuit claiming that the companies failed to properly label talcum products with warnings that the talc products contained carcinogenic ingredients.
California Prop 65 requires retailers to properly label all carcinogenic ingredients containing products with warnings so that consumers are aware of the risks associated with the product.
According to the complaint, a multitude of research clearly shows talc – which is the main ingredient used in baby powders and body powders – is known to be contaminated with such carcinogens as lead, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium.
The plaintiffs claim that the defendants failed to meet these requirements, hiding the facts from “unsuspecting customers”. While these products do list “talc” as a primary ingredient, the complaint alleges that industry definition required of talc “expressly includes” trace amounts of arsenic, lead and hexavalent chromium.
"By including these carcinogens and reproductive toxins in the specification for 'talc,' the industry has misleadingly marketed talcum powder products as containing pure talc and has actively and knowingly taken steps to conceal the presence of [carcinogens] from consumers," one plaintiff explained. "The industry has done so with a profiteering motive, knowing that full disclosure would lead to a significant loss in sales and, even more likely, the removal of talcum powder products from the market.”
Plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit are seeking an injunction that forces the defendants as well as other talc-product retailers to include a Prop 65 cancer warning on talc products.
Plaintiffs have also made a demand for damages, for which the amount remains disclosed.
This is a public health crisis that has gone unchecked for decades," said the plaintiffs’ representative Trent Miracle of Simmons Hanly Conroy. "The defendants, who represent brands trusted by millions of consumers, have to be held accountable for causing so much harm and putting so many more people at risk."
Other defendants named in the talc lawsuit include Dolgen LLC, Sanofi SA, Walmart, CVS Pharmacy Inc., and Davion Inc.
The lawsuit is filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles.
January 15, 2020 - Plaintiffs in a New Jersey talc powder lawsuit who were previously awarded $37 million in compensatory damages are now seeking punitive damages from a new jury. After deciding in favor of the plaintiffs, who claim that talcum powder caused their injuries, new jurors must determine whether there is significant evidence to bring punitive damages against talc powder manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued during Tuesday’s punitive damages trial that J&J was aware that their product contained asbestos but continued to sell it to consumers without warning. They directed jurors to J&J internal memos and employee testimony that indicated that J&J was aware of asbestos in their talc products and even coached employees to present the product to consumers as asbestos-free.
Acting as the key witness in Tuesday’s hearing, a terminally ill plaintiff gave his account to the jury.
David Etheridge, age 60, took to the stand to tell of his struggles living with terminal mesothelioma, which he claims he developed as a result of asbestos-containing talc powder. The Virginia Presbyterian minister explained that he had to retire early from his career once his illness became too debilitating for him to preach.
Etheridge developed mesothelioma three years ago, while on vacation with family. He has undergone numerous treatments, including an 11-hour operation that left him hospitalized for 22 days.
He has since undergone chemotherapy. However, his mesothelioma has become untreatable. According to Etheridge, all current treatments are an effort to make him more comfortable and extend his life.
Ethridge says he was first exposed to asbestos-tainted talc powder as a baby.
J&J representatives argued that the company met and even exceeded federal regulatory standards regarding asbestos testing in its products. The defendant’s attorneys also argued that two third-party testing agencies had both tested J&J talc products for asbestos, with both tests coming out negative for the presence of asbestos. The defendants also claimed that they had previously flagged products believed to contain asbestos to federal agencies, but testing indicated that it was only an asbestos-like product.
Additional co-plaintiffs – D’Angela McNeill-George, Douglas Barden, and the estate of Will Ronning – all claim to have been exposed to asbestos in J&J baby powder and are seeking punitive damages for their injuries.
January 6, 2020 - J&J announced midtrial today that they had agreed to settle with a plaintiff who claims that J&J talc contained asbestos which caused the plaintiff to develop mesothelioma.
The California court was one of the first to hear testimony regarding the FDA’s findings from October, in which the agency confirmed to have found chrysotile asbestos in a blind test of J&J talc products.
J&J subsequently announced that its own independent testing found no asbestos in its talc product line.
The California trial was set to be the first talc lawsuit in which the jury would be able to weigh in on the FDA’s findings. Because of the settlement, the jury will no longer be able to issue an opinion on the matter.
Linda and Mark O’Hagan, spouses and plaintiffs in the California talc lawsuit, claim that Linda developed mesothelioma in August 2018 as a result of asbestos present in J&J baby powder.
November 20, 2019 - For decades, the Food and Drug Administration downplayed concerns over cancer-causing asbestos found in talc contained in baby powder and cosmetics. A Reuters investigation found that over the past 50 years, the agency has repeatedly ignored concerns from experts and consumers while leaving testing for asbestos to the companies themselves.
Reuters reports that the FDA downplayed risks, failed to issue warnings, and did not impose proper safety standards, according to documents produced in court proceedings. The agency said it did not have the authority to require manufacturers of powders and cosmetics to test for asbestos. The agency rarely conducted independent tests until recent pushback led to changes.
Following increased scrutiny in Congress and from the public, the FDA commissioned testing and found asbestos in 11 talc-based cosmetics, including Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. J&J recalled 33,000 bottles following the testing. The company was already facing lawsuits alleging they failed to warn customers about asbestos in its products.
The FDA’s findings revealed what many feared. So why did it take so long for the agency to act? FDA officials responded to questions from Reuters, stating that the agency does not have the authority to require manufacturers to test for asbestos or report results. The FDA also does not have the authority to force companies to pull products off of shelves or ensure the safety of cosmetics.
FDA officials said they now recognize that there is no known safe level of asbestos for products. This recognition was made by the World Health Organization and other public health agencies years ago. The agency said it uses the best available information to make decisions, and that the new tests improved “understanding of how and why asbestos fibers are hazardous.”
Following the tests, the FDA has moved to increase the regulation of talc-based products. FDA officials said the agency’s current policy is to act quickly and to encourage recalls if necessary when small amounts of asbestos are discovered. The agency announced a voluntary recall of the tainted products in March. Agency officials said they stand by recent tests despite pushback from Johnson & Johnson.
The FDA now faces increased pressure to regulate talc powders and cosmetics to ensure they are free from asbestos. This year’s testing by the agency followed jury verdicts against J&J that exceeded $5 billion in cancer lawsuits. A December 2018 Reuters report found that J&J was aware of its raw talc and powders occasionally tested positive for asbestos and did not report the findings to the FDA.
Johnson & Johnson disputed Reuters’ 2018 report as “one-sided, false and inflammatory.” J&J officials told Reuters the company has cooperated and supported the FDA’s mission to protect public health, and suggestions that the company pushed for reduced standards of regulation are “just false.” Officials said the company was under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and Securities Exchange Commission.
Following the FDA testing that found asbestos in J&J Baby Powder, the company issued a statement that is was recalling the 33,000 bottles as an “abundance of caution.” J&J announced 11 days later that tests conducted by labs the company hired found no asbestos in the talc in baby powder. J&J written responses to Reuters said the company systematically tests the talc and has consistently found the product to be pure and safe.
Last year, FDA cosmetic chief Dr. Linda Katz began organizing a symposium and public hearing on talc testing following renewed asbestos concerns. The symposium, set to take place at some point in 2020, will likely address contention over which particular mineral powders cause cancer. The meeting might also set precedence for how the FDA plans to navigate industry and consumer concerns in the future.
The symposium follows 2018’s “Asbestos in Talc Symposium” that the FDA sponsored. The 2018 event set formal recommendations on talc testing, but Reuters investigations raised concerns over industry influence for the procedures. Reuters reviewed reports of the session that discouraged counting fibers that “may or may not be asbestos” as hazardous, an issue of courtroom contention nationwide. This contradicts other U.S. and European public health official positions that consider mineral fibers that even look like asbestos to toxic.
Dr. David Egilman, a clinical professor of family medicine at Brown University, issued concerns over the lack of medical professionals present at the 2018 symposium; most non-government participants had backgrounds in mineral testing or geology. Egilman told Reuters that if the FDA was guided by geologists and industry consultants, it could be overlooking which mineral fibers cause cancer. Egilman offered his expertise as a physician and researcher, but an FDA official said his expertise was not required.
Push for Public Assurance
Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois congressman, is chair of a U.S. House subcommittee that is investigating talc safety. Krishnamoorthi told Reuters that the FDA and other regulators need to stop depending on manufacturers for safety assurance. He said the agency needs to bring consumers and advocates into the discussion moving forward.
“When something as serious as cancer or carcinogens are at issue,” he said, “self-regulation doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
May 31, 2019 - A New York state jury hit Johnson & Johnson with $300 million in punitive damages after finding the company responsible for Donna Olson's mesothelioma which she developed after years of using J&J's talcum powder products. The Friday verdict is an extension of the earlier verdict in May which awarded Olson and her husband $25 million in compensatory damages, bringing the total verdict to $325 million.
The punitive damages were a result of finding there was "clear and unequivocal evidence that J&J's misconduct was wanton and reckless," according to the Olson's attorney, Jerome Block of Levy Konigsberg LLP.
March 13, 2019 - In the latest talcum powder trial in California, the jury found Johnson & Johnson's baby powder product contained asbestos causing cancer and was a big factor in causing the woman's mesothelioma.
According to Law360, "The jury awarded $291,000 to Teresa E. Leavitt for past medical expenses, $1 million for future medical, $1.2 million for loss of earnings, $7 million for past physical pain and mental suffering, and $15 million for future physical pain and mental suffering." The verdict also gave her partner a combined $5 million for past and future love and companionship.
February 2019 - Cases on file around the country and in the MDL continue to move forward. State court dockets are seeing additional trials, which have gone well for plaintiffs. Most of these verdicts are in various stages of appeals, so while the jury response has been encouraging, ultimate success remains to be seen.
January 23, 2019 - St. Louis, Missouri Judge Rex Burlison of the 22nd Circuit Court ruled to uphold the $4.7 billion verdict against talc product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson in Ingham, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al.
The verdict, which consisted of $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages is the sixth-largest verdict in a product liability lawsuit in U.S. history – it is the largest verdict against J&J.
Judge Burlison refused to grant J&J’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, new trial, and new trials on damages, on a basis of what Burlison concluded was “substantial evidence” to support the $4.7 billion award.
“First, substantial evidence was adduced at trial of particularly reprehensible conduct on the part of defendants, including that defendants knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades,” Burlison wrote. “Second, defendants’ actions caused significant physical harm and potential physical harm, including causing ovarian cancer in plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ decedents.”
Representatives for the defendant argued that the Missouri court lacked jurisdiction over the company, which is based in New Jersey. The defense went on to argue that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their claims in court.
A spokesperson for J&J said that the company plans to file an appeal within the coming weeks.
December 20, 2018 - In a landmark decision, Johnson & Johnson lost its motion to reverse a verdict that awarded $4.69 billion to women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the company's talcum powder product.
Cosmetic grade talc is produced so that it conforms to the specifications of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), which requires all cosmetic grade talc to be free of asbestos. However, in its natural form, talc contains asbestos, a proven cause of lung cancer.
Although all talcum products used in homes in the United States since the 1970s have been asbestos-free, those individuals that mine for talc, and similar jobs, involve a high risk of long-term exposure to natural talc fibers. Those fibers, containing asbestos, may contribute to a higher chance of developing lung cancer from inhaling them which could lead to a chemical exposure lawsuit.
August 2018 - A St. Louis jury has awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and an additional $4.14 billion in punitive damages to the 22 women who proved that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The trial was held in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The Plaintiffs proved that J&J and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, concealed the fact that their talc was contaminated with asbestos.
The plaintiff's argued that J&J sold its archetypal product, white-bottled baby powder, knowing that the talc-based product was contaminated with asbestos and failed to warn consumers of the contamination in order to protect the company's own image. All 22 plaintiffs habitually used J&J white-bottled baby powder for feminine hygiene, and all 22 were subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The plaintiff's lead attorney, Mark Lanier, said that concerned with profits alone, J&J has been concealing evidence of asbestos's presence in talc since 1973.
"This is not the Johnson & Johnson of yesteryear, the Johnson brothers of 1875," Lanier said. "This is a multi-national corporation. It still plays on the idea because it will evoke warm feelings of trust. That's why they (J&J) call it (baby powder) their golden egg, their sacred cow."
Lanier went as far as to call the defense's witnesses "hired guns" who took part in "junk science" to serve the needs of the manufacturers.
Lanier cited the findings of Dr. William Longo, an electron microscope research scientist whose research has linked asbestos' presence in talc to higher risks of ovarian cancer. Dr. Longo's testimony has been key to many of the prosecutorial arguments in past talc cases.
J&J unceasingly defended its staple product, countering throughout the month and a half long trial that the prosecution's claims were unfounded. "The talc in Johnson's Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer and we will continue to defend the safety of our product," said J&J spokesperson Carol Goodrich in a statement prior to jury deliberations. J&J presented expert witnesses who testified that other risk factors, such as inherited prior family histories of cancer and mutating genes unrelated to talc, were the reasons that the plaintiffs developed ovarian cancer.
Although this is not the first claim against J&J talc products, the stakes in this St. Louis lawsuit were much higher.
Unlike previous claims against J&J talc, which argued that talc itself caused women to develop ovarian cancer, this is the first argument to focus on the claim that the talc products were contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and that asbestos itself caused plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer.
Asbestos is a mineral that is often found near talc deposits.
J&J has previously defended claims that their talc products contained asbestos and that inhalation of the product caused consumers to develop cancer. This is the first case where the direct application of talc products supposedly containing asbestos caused the plaintiffs to develop cancer near or around the application point.
Because the jury has found in favor of the plaintiffs, this decision opens the floodgates for similar talcum powder lawsuits to be tried in state and federal courts nationwide, with a potential for J&J to face billions of dollars in future verdicts.
Prior juries have found that J&J talc products caused women to develop ovarian cancer, but never as a result of asbestos exposure. Previous single-plaintiff verdicts have surpassed $100 million, which explains why this talc powder verdict, which included 22 plaintiffs, was so great in comparison.
J&J is also facing a number of other legal battles against claims that their talc products caused consumers to develop mesothelioma (link page here), a form of lung cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.
This decision will shape the context of the arguments for the nearly 9000 talc-related claims pending against J&J nationwide.
April 2018 - There are more than 6,000 plaintiffs whose cases are filed in federal court. There are more than 1,500 plaintiffs whose cases are on file in various state courts. There are cases being prepared for trial, and tried cases in varying stages of appeals.
October 2017 – The $72 million awarded to Jackie Fox is thrown out by a Missouri appeals court stating the out-of-state plaintiff did not have the right to sue in a Missouri court.
August 2017 – Eva Echeverria was awarded the largest individual talcum powder verdict to date, but the verdict was later overturned and is now under appeal.
August 24, 2017 - On Monday, August 21, a landmark verdict was reached in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in California. The jury, agreeing that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused Eva Echeverria to develop terminal ovarian cancer, ruled in favor of the plaintiff, awarding Echeverria $417 million.
This particular case acted as a bellwether for similar cases in the Johnson & Johnson consolidated talcum powder lawsuits in California. The California state court verdict is a milestone for not only other talcum powder lawsuits but for many other individuals taking on the corporate giant, Johnson & Johnson because it indicates there may be a higher chance for plaintiffs in similar cases to win.
The verdict surpasses another impressive benchmark verdict brought against Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder earlier this year – when a St. Louis, Missouri jury awarded $110.5 million to a woman who had also developed ovarian cancer. Last year, trials in the St. Louis court resulted in various verdicts of $72 million, $70.1 million and $55 million in damages to plaintiffs who had suffered similar injuries. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson was hit with four out of the five biggest product liability verdicts in the country. In total, more than 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson's talcum products thus far.
In addition to the talcum powder lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is facing lawsuits for a number of other pharmaceutical drugs and products, including Xarelto, a blood thinner; Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug; hip implants; and transvaginal mesh. In 2017, the company will face 17 different trials alleging one of its products caused injuries or death. Many of the lawsuits are ongoing.
At TorHoerman Law, we spend a significant part of our practice going after big pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers that don't adequately warn of the risks of prescription medicines or medical devices that they put on the market. You can keep up-to-date with all the ways we are challenging big pharma by checking out our current litigations.
June 27, 2017 - The nationwide pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has filed a motion to dismiss a large number of cases brought against their talcum powder products, seizing upon a United States Supreme Court ruling which could potentially restrict the courts where plaintiffs can file lawsuits.
The Supreme Court decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co vs Superior Court restricted Plaintiffs in that case to file personal injury lawsuits in either the district where J&J is incorporated or has its principal place of business or the district where the injury occurred. Though the decision was specific to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, J&J hopes to apply it to other pending cases throughout the country.
J&J ultimate goal is to restrict and dismiss the number of cases filed against their talcum powder products in state courts. There are nearly 6,000 lawsuits currently filed against J&J claiming that their talc products increase the likelihood of ovarian cancer in women. J&J failed to warn consumers of these increased risks. In fact, the company still denies that these risks even exist.
Of the 5,950 lawsuits against J&J’s talc products, around twenty percent (20%) are pending in Missouri state courts (primarily in the city of St. Louis) where juries have already awarded nearly $307 million in verdicts for Plaintiffs who were injured by talc.
A number of these St. Louis Plaintiffs are not Missouri residents, which is why J&J argues that they should be dismissed because the court lacks personal jurisdiction. In essence, personal jurisdiction arises out of issues of federalism, state sovereignty, and the due process rights of the defendant (here J&J). Ultimately, personal jurisdiction determines whether a state can constitutionally enter judgment against a defendant. In order to establish jurisdiction, there must exist sufficient minimum contacts by the defendant such that the exercise of jurisdiction will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
For J&J, it should be fair to state that even out-of-state cause of actions clearly relates to J&J’s contacts with Missouri. In other words, it can be argued that out-of-state Plaintiffs’ injuries resulted from the tortious sale of talcum powder, and J&J carries on that the same injurious activity in Missouri. Even further, J&J should not be surprised if they are sued in a Missouri court to answer for their tortious sale of talc powder. If J&J did not want to take responsibility for their actions in Missouri, then they should never have directed their sales to Missouri.
If the judge allows J&J's motion to dismiss based upon a lack of personal jurisdiction, these out-of-state cases will be dismissed and potentially never see their day in court.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, a St. Louis judge declared a mistrial in a talc product trial that had already been proceeding for nearly a week. Two of the three Plaintiffs, in that case, were not residents of Missouri.
"We believe the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Bristol-Myers Squibb matter requires reversal of the talc cases that are currently under appeal in St. Louis," J&J said of the matter.
This decision could have implications on other cases throughout the court, including but not limited to, California lawsuits against Bayer's Essure and Illinois and California lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil. A large number of plaintiffs in both lawsuits are filing from out-of-state and could be vulnerable to dismissal based on the Supreme Court's limiting decision.
May 2017 – Lois Siemp was awarded $110.4 million out of Missouri. The verdict was later upheld on appeal.
On the other hand, in 2009, the FDA took steps towards finding a link between talc and lung cancer. Of the nine talc suppliers asked by the FDA to provide samples of talc for the study, only four complied with their request. They also sampled talc-containing cosmetic products in the study. The survey found that no asbestos fibers or structures were present in any of the samples. Because of the limited number of samples, the FDA found the results "informative", but did not prove that most or all products in the United States containing cosmetic grade talc are free of asbestos.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20,000 women develop ovarian cancer in the U.S. annually. Of these cases, 14,500 are fatal.
In 2017, the FDA's Office of Women's Health (OWH) took another step to establishing a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The OWH awards research grants for one to two-year projects designed to advance the study of women's health issues. One of those research grants was awarded to a team investigating the link between talcum powder and cancer. The research summary states that the connection between the two not been investigated adequately and there was a larger "need for studies with longer exposure periods and more detailed evaluation of the early events in genital system tissue transformation."
Currently, there are more than 4,000 talcum powder lawsuit cases pending against talc products, but since these powders are cosmetic products, regulatory authority by the FDA is limited, leaving women in the hands of the manufacturers. Johnson & Johnson continues to market their profitable talcum powder as a safe and consumer-friendly product.
In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) scheduled a re-evaluation of talc. Based on limited data, they concluded that the inhalation of asbestos-free (pharmaceutical grade) talc was not carcinogenic to humans. But, based on the limited research for its link to ovarian cancer the IARC concluded that pharmaceutical grade talc could be "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, "cosmetic products" and their ingredients (such as baby and shower powder) excluding additives, do not have to undergo FDA review or approval before they enter the market. But, companies do have a legal responsibility to properly label their products with safety information and the ingredients in their products but are not required to share this info with the FDA.
February 2017 - The FDA's Office of Women’s Health granted funding to a lab to research the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. According to the research summary, talcum powder's "effects on female genital system tissues have not been adequately investigated." This proposed research, it says, "will help to fill some of the existing data gaps in the molecular and genetic events associated with early ovarian oncogenesis, as these are largely unknown."
October 2016 - Deborah Giannecchini was awarded $70 million at a court in St. Louis, MO.
May 2016 – Gloria Ristesund, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, was awarded $55 million but a jury in Missouri.
February 2016 – $72 million was awarded to a woman who used talcum powder for 35 years in a talcum powder lawsuit.
In early 2016, a talcum powder lawsuit was filed in a St. Louis County court against Johnson & Johnson Inc. One plaintiff, Marvin Fox, filed suit on behalf of his mother, Jacqueline Salter Fox, who developed fatal ovarian cancer after 35 years of using Johnson & Johnson baby powder and shower products. Fox's suit was part of a 60 person civil suit filed in Missouri. The jury charged the pharmaceutical company with fraud, negligence, and conspiracy, and awarded Fox $10 million in damages and $62 million in punitive damages.
Fox was a loving mother, a foster mother, a caretaker, a hard-working American, and, sadly, just one of the thousands of women who were put at an increased risk of ovarian cancer by using Shower-to-Shower. Just months before her death, Fox explained to attorneys, that she was "raised on" Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc. Like many women in the African American community, Fox was taught to use Shower talc as part of her daily feminine hygiene routine – just the way J&J intended it to be used.
The Fox case was important in bringing forward some risk factors previously not considered. Although studies show that Caucasian women are at a higher risk than any other race to develop ovarian cancer, documents brought out during the trial show that Johnson & Johnson intentionally targeted African American and Hispanic women in their advertising of "A Sprinkle A Day." And in fact, many African American and Hispanic women note that using talc for feminine hygiene was second nature and it had been a routine they followed as long as they can remember. The Fox case is likely to be the first of many cases brought by African American women and we expect to talk to many women in the Hispanic community for similar reasons.
African American woman who contract ovarian cancer as a result of talc use, have a much higher mortality rate – 7.2 black women per 100,000 died of cancer compared to 4.1 per 100,000 for all other races.
2006 - The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) scheduled a re-evaluation of talc. It was found that pharmaceutical grade talc could be "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
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Last Modified: June 30th, 2020 @ 12:59 pm
Talcum powder is made up of a mineral, talc. When used as a powder, talc can help to reduce moisture and prevent rashes, making it a popular ingredient for products such as Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, among others, including various cosmetics. Talcum powder lawsuits throughout the country allege that talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer.
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