For decades, there has been a growing amount of evidence that the use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and related products could cause ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers. There is strong evidence that sometimes Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder contained asbestos, which is a known human carcinogen that causes cancer. There also is evidence that talc particles can get into the vagina and fallopian tubes and into the ovaries, which can boost the risk of ovarian cancer.
The first clinical study that linked baby powder to ovarian cancer was done in 1971. Research determined that 75% of tumors in the ovaries had talc particles in them. Ten years later, a researcher at Harvard University found there was a 30% increase in ovarian cancer in women who used baby powder products daily. Also, internal memos from the 1990s at Johnson & Johnson showed the company was aware of possible risks but though the risk was too low to justify warning the public.
Because of the connection between J&J baby powder and cancer, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the health care giant by women or families of those who got ovarian cancer and other forms of cancer from using baby powder. At this time, juries have awarded billions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs, but there are still at least 12,000 lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.
First Baby Powder Lawsuit Won in 2013
The first baby powder ovarian cancer lawsuit that was successful against Johnson & Johnson was in 2013 in federal court. One of the top experts in cancer research related to talcum powder is Dr. Daniel Cramer, and he testified on behalf of the female plaintiff and said talcum powder has caused many ovarian cancer cases over the years.
During this landmark trial, an attorney for J&J admitted the firm knew there was a risk of cancer from using baby powder but thought the risk was too low to justify mentioning in public. The company never acted to warn the public by putting anything about the risk on the product label. At the same time, J&J was boosting marketing of baby powder products, especially in the Hispanic and African American demographics.
J&J Risk from Baby Powder Lawsuits Grew in 2018
According to a recent Bloomberg report, Johnson & Johnson paid a heavy price in 2018 for baby powder lawsuits alleging the product causes cancer. Their analysis also warned it could get even worse on the lawsuit front for the company in 2019. (bloomberg.com)
A jury in July 2018 ordered J&J to pay $4.7 billion to 22 litigants who blamed the product for causing ovarian cancer. The possibility of similar successful lawsuits helped to cancel $45 billion of the company’s market value, with the company’s shares heading for the largest loss in 10 years.
In 2019, J&J is facing almost three times as many baby powder cancer lawsuits. Four of them are set for St. Louis, which is the same state court where J&J lost the verdict last July. Several of the baby powder cancer trials involve several alleged victims, including one with almost 40 women that will start in August.
Legal experts note the greater number of trials, especially in a plaintiff-friendly court such as in St. Louis, does not bode well for the company. The more lawsuits J&J loses, the more lawsuits will be filed.
Investor worries about baby powder lawsuits is growing after the media reported last year that internal company documents showed company executives have known for decades that some of their baby powder contained asbestos. Thousands of litigants are now accusing J&J of hiding the risk of cancer to protect a product and brand that has been common in American homes for more than 100 years.
Baby powder is largely made of talc, which is a mineral useful to keep the skin dry. It also is helpful as an astringent to prevent baby diaper rash. But the problem is that rock formations that contain talc also can contain asbestos. There is a strong link between asbestos exposure and various cancers, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
Women who are suing J&J claim they got their cancer from exposure to talcum powder with asbestos in it, or by using talcum powder on their genitals. J&J always maintains the products they have with baby powder in them are safe.
Juries in many states, including California, Missouri and New Jersey have given out more than $5 billion in awards since 2016. But in some cases, those verdicts were thrown out on appeal. JJ& sometimes wins verdicts or has hung juries in other lawsuits.
Johnson & Johnson Maintains a Strong Defense Despite Losses
J&J, even though it has been on the losing end of some lawsuits, continues to be committed to defend baby powder cancer lawsuits based on what they claim is strong scientific evidence that the product does not cause cancer.
The company noted last year that of the last five trials in 2018, two were decided in the company’s favor, and there were three mistrials. All of the cases that have gone through the full appellate process also have been reversed, and the company thinks the five cases that were on appeal at the end of last year will be reversed eventually.
But the risk the company is facing from the avalanche of baby powder cancer lawsuits is major, according to litigation analysts. To resolve the 12,000 or so cases, J&J could have to pay as much as $20 billion in settlements. That would add up to $1.7 million per case on average.
In December 2018, J&J settled its first baby powder cancer case, working with talc supplier Imerys American to pay $1.5 million to settle a claim in Manhattan. J&J said the legal settlement did not show it was open to settling more cases.
A company spokesperson said there is no organized program at J&J to settle baby powder cancer cases, and it is not planning a comprehensive settlement program.
But in 2019, there are 21 trials at least on various court calendars that are targeting the company over their baby powder.
Some of the recent lawsuit verdicts and settlements that have been decided to date include:
- 2017: $417 million to a woman in California who said she got ovarian cancer from using J&J baby powder. This was one of the largest verdicts against the company at the time (mesowatch.com)
- 2019: $25 million to a woman in New York who claimed J&J baby powder caused her mesothelioma. The company also was ordered to pay $300 million in punitive damages. (drugwatch.com)
- 2019: $12 million to a woman in California who allegedly got ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. Colgate also was sued in this case for causing cancer with its Cashmere Bouquet product. (com)
J&J Talc Risk Expands as Cancer Trials Triple in 2019. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-21/j-j-s-tainted-talc-risk-expands-as-cancer-trials-triple-in-2019
J&J Baby Powder Terminal Cancer – Woman Awarded $12 Million. (2019). Retrieved from https://people.com/health/johnson-johnson-baby-powder-woman-terminal-cancer-awarded-12-million/
J&J Ordered to Pay $417 Million in Talc Powder Lawsuit. (2017). Retrieved from https://mesowatch.com/johnson-johnson-ordered-to-pay-417-million-in-talc-powder-lawsuit/
J&J to Pay $325 Million in Talc Meso Lawsuit. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.drugwatch.com/news/2019/06/06/johnson-and-johnson-to-pay-325m-in-talc-meso-lawsuit/