Largest Award of $417M Against Johnson & Johnson for Ovarian Cancer Caused by Talc

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johnson-johnson-ovarian-cancer-talcNumerous lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson in connection with its baby powder products. The cancer alleged to have been caused by these products has resulted in so many claims that it is becoming difficult to follow all of them.  According to Bloomberg, the company is dealing with over 5,000 claims against it in U.S. Courts. Previously, it lost four jury verdicts in St Louis. The losses from these verdicts amounted to over $290 million. In Los Angeles, California a jury awarded over $417 million to Eva Echeverria. In this case, Johnson and Johnson was found liable for not providing any type of warning concerning the possible risk of developing cancer from use of its baby powder products.

Ovarian Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), ovarian cancer is part of more than 1.2 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States. It is currently the eighth most common cancer for all women. It is also the fifth-leading cause of death from cancer for women. Once a woman receives this type of diagnosis, less than half of them will survive beyond five years.

Largest Award

The Los Angeles jury award was the largest among the many suits filed against the company. Johnson & Johnson was found to be liable by a jury for not warning 63-year-old Eva Echeverria about the risks of using the company’s talcum products. Escheverria was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in 2007. At that time, Escheverria had a tumor the size of a softball removed by a surgeon. A video-taped deposition of Escheverria was played for the jury during the trial. She stated during the deposition that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was regularly used by her starting at age 11, and she didn’t stop until 2016. Escheverria claimed that if Johnson & Johnson has placed warning on their products about the possibility of developing cancer; she would have stopped using them. She is now near death and was unable to attend the trial.

Defense Studies

The attorneys representing Johnson & Johnson have stated they will appeal the Los Angeles award. They claim to be guided by science which illustrates how Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe. During the trial, the company’s attorneys tried to show a number of scientific studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as other federal agencies, believed talc products were not carcinogenic. The company introduced a number of studies at the trial. One was conducted in 2000 by researchers at Harvard University. It involved over 120,000 women which included over 78,600 women who claimed to use talc. Approximately 305 of them developed ovarian cancer. The conclusion researchers reached was based on evidence that there was not an overall association between using talc and a person developing epithelial ovarian cancer. This study concluded there is a moderate increase in risk associated with developing a variety of this disease with using talc products.

Plaintiff Studies

The attorneys representing Echeverria did make the point during the trial that women around the United States trusted Johnson & Johnson to provide them with a safe product. Many of the women claimed to have learned too late the company was aware decades earlier of a connection between cancer and talc. The plaintiff’s attorneys presented a study conducted in 1982. The study results showed when women would use talc on their genitals, they had an increased risk of over 90 percent for developing ovarian cancer. They were also able to show the lead researcher of the 1982 study advised Johnson & Johnson to include warning labels on all its products containing talc.

It only took the jury two days of deliberations to determine the award. Echeverria was awarded $347 million in punitive damages as well as $70 million in compensatory damages. Based on the evidence presented, the jury found there was a link between baby powder and Echeverria’s ovarian cancer.

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