Thousands of talcum powder lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson due to a possible link between talc and ovarian cancer. More than 5,500 women have claimed that J&J’s Shower-to-Shower, Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based powder products have caused them to develop ovarian cancer. J&J has already been ordered to pay hundreds of $millions in compensation for ovarian cancer but many cases are still pending.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Several large verdicts have recently been issued against Johnson & Johnson for its talcum powder products including Shower-to-Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder. These lawsuits were filed by women who developed ovarian cancer after frequent use of J&J products containing talc.
Some studies have shown evidence for a link between talc use near the genitals and development of ovarian cancer. Internal records show that Johnson & Johnson had been aware of the link for more than 40 years but failed to warn the public. For many years, they continued to sell talc-based powders and did not place warnings on their products.
Thousands of women who developed ovarian cancer after routine use of J&J products have filed lawsuits which claim that the company had a duty to warn about an increased risk of cancer when talcum powder is used on or near the genitals.
Link Between Talc and Ovarian Cancer
The first evidence of a link between use of talc and ovarian cancer emerged in 1971 when a study published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth showed that 75% of ovarian and cervical cancer tumors removed in 13 women contained talc particles. Court documents show that Johnson & Johnson immediately began a concerted effort to undermine the report.
Since then, over 40 peer-reviewed papers or reports have been published in a variety of medical journals regarding talcum powder and a link to cancer. Of these studies, 22 show a positive statistical link and an additional four studies show a slight potential but indicate that further study would be necessary to establish a definitive answer.
Two recent large-scale analyses both show positive, statistical evidence of a link between talc use and ovarian cancer.
These studies include:
A study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention discovered in 2017, showed a “weak but statistically significant” connection between ovarian cancer and genital use of talc. It was noted that the studies reviewed had design and conduct differences which could have affected the results of the analysis.
A study published in a 2018 issue of Epidemiology, showed a “consistent association” between ovarian cancer and perianal (near the genitals) use of talc. Some differences were noted regarding study type and cancer subtype measured.
Because Johnson & Johnson knew about a potential link, they may have violated a duty to warn and can be held liable for marketing defects and potential risks of using their talcum powder products.
Talcum Powder Lawsuit Claims
Medical injury lawsuits like those filed against Johnson & Johnson may seek compensation for a number of costs. Potential compensation awards may include:
The costs of treating ovarian cancer are considerable. Costs for the first year of treatment alone may be over $80,000 and treatment may be required for more than one year. Even when a patient has medical insurance, certain policies will require out-of-pocket payments and some treatments may not be covered.
In addition, many patients do not live near cancer treatment centers and must travel a considerable distance. Cancer treatment may be debilitating, and patients may require assistance with transportation and overnight lodging for themselves and a family member or friend. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is also sometimes fatal and family members will be expected to pay for funeral expenses and may be left with a number of other bills.
Lawsuits for medical injury caused by talcum powder, like those filed against Johnson & Johnson, often include requests for compensation for medical costs and funeral expenses that occurred as a result of the product use. They may also request compensation for future medical expenses that may be expected.
Examples of medical costs for talcum powder lawsuits may include:
- Office visits
- Imaging studies (CT, MRI, PET, and X-ray)
- Blood tests
- Surgical procedure
- Chemotherapy administration
- Drug costs (chemo drugs, antiemetics, pain treatments)
- Radiation treatments
- Home health care
- Facility costs (hospital, nursing facility, hospice)
- Lodging during treatment
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Legal costs
- Court fees
Ovarian cancer is a debilitating illness which commonly prevents a patient from being able to maintain employment. Lost wages may be substantial, result in considerable stress and pose a significant challenge to the patient and associated family members. Loss of income in the past, during pre-diagnosis, treatment and any recovery is often requested as a compensated expense. Loss of earning potential may also help to compensate for future income loss associated with disability or for family members such as children who are impacted in the event of a death.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a compensable expense that is often sought in medical injury cases. In the case of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits, compensation for pain and suffering is a common request. Ovarian cancer itself is a painful disease and the patient may endure treatments, stress, and personal concerns such as loss of child-bearing potential, which lead to suffering for both the patient and associated family members.
Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers about the risks of using talcum powder products like Shower-to-Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder. Internal documents from 1997 and before, show that the company was aware of potential risks but failed to act, and may have tried to discredit information which showed that risk.
When a company has been proven to continue to market and sell a product that they knew posed a risk, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to “punish” the company for failure to act. They are often much larger than other compensation awards and maybe 10 or more times the amount of money received for all other categories of compensation.
So far, talcum powder lawsuit awards have totaled about $725 million and of that amount, about $630 million was awarded for punitive damages to penalize J&J and Imerys Talc which supplied the talc ingredient used in Johnson’s products.
Talcum Powder Lawsuit Settlements
Compensation for medical injury and product liability lawsuits may be decided in one of two ways:
- Verdicts are awarded by a jury at the end of a trial and may include punitive damages. They most commonly involve a small number of plaintiffs.
- Settlements are agreements between both parties which usually involve a set amount monetary compensation in exchange for dismissal or discontinuing the lawsuit. In many cases, the company will admit no wrongdoing but other conditions may be applied. Settlements may involve the only individual or may involve a large number – even thousands of plaintiffs.
Thus far, a number of verdicts have been issued for talcum powder lawsuits but no cases have been resolved by settlement with Johnson & Johnson or any manufacturer. J&J has aggressively defended the safety of their products, despite potential links that have been established.
In the first case, a $1.3 million out-of-court settlement was offered in 2009, however, it was rejected as the plaintiff would have been required to sign a confidentiality clause. The ovarian cancer survivor would not have been able to discuss her case or details surrounding the lawsuit. The victim wanted to reserve the right to inform others of the dangers of talcum powder products.
A number of cases have been resolved through jury trials, many of which have been high-profile, and increased public awareness of the potential risks of talcum powder. Nine trials have been conducted and six of these have resulted in compensation awards for the plaintiffs for total damages of $724 million combined. Thousands of lawsuits have yet to be settled and many more may be expected.
February 2016 – A family was awarded $72 million after their loved one passed away from terminal ovarian cancer and it was proven that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers about risks.
May 2016 – A Missouri jury awarded $55 million to a plaintiff diagnosed with ovarian cancer after decades of use of J&J products.
October 2016 – A St. Louis jury awarded $70 million to a single plaintiff who had used Johnson’s Baby Powder for four decades.
May 2017 – A Missouri jury awarded $110 million to a single plaintiff. This trial was conducted only 2 months after J&J had won another trial and the verdict was upheld on appeal.
August 2017 – A Los Angeles jury awarded $417 million to a single plaintiff. The amount was twice that which was requested but the case has been overturned and is under appeal.
Filing a Talcum Powder Lawsuit
Women or family members of those who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer that may have been caused by talcum powder use may be eligible for compensation for medical injuries or wrongful death.
Talcum powder lawsuits currently involve the use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products made by Johnson & Johnson. The products may have been used for feminine hygiene and applied in the genital area, resulting in ovarian cancer. Other manufacturers and products may also be facing lawsuits including Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet and products manufactured by Whitaker, Clark, and Daniels.
Johnson & Johnson is currently facing over 5,500 lawsuits in federal, state and local courts. Federal cases have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. State courts in California, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, and others have a number of pending cases. Localities such as counties, parishes, and cities may also have pending lawsuits and more case may be expected.
Each case is unique and must be evaluated by legal experts. Some states have limitations on how quickly a lawsuit must be filed and potential victims should seek legal advice right away.
- The Association Between Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer, Epidemiology (3/2016)
- Johnson’s Baby Powder (internal memo), Bloomberg News (3/2016)
- Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $55 mln in talc-powder trial, Reuters (5/2016)
- J&J Loses Third Trial Over Cancer Link to Talcum Powder, Bloomberg (10/2016)
- Perineal use of talc and risk of ovarian cancer, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health (10/2008)
- Record $417M award in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer, Associated Press (8/2017)