Talcum Powder Lawsuit
Product liability lawyers across the country are investigating the possibility of filing lawsuits on behalf of women who have developed ovarian cancer as a result of using talc-based products for genital hygiene. Many attorneys believe that the manufacturers of such products provided inadequate warning to consumers about known risks of talcum powder when used in this manner.
Thus far, one talcum powder lawsuit filed in federal court resulted in a verdict favoring the plaintiff, who alleged that her ovarian cancer was caused by her use of talcum products. In support of her case, the plaintiff relied on testimony from medical researchers, one of whom asserted that talcum powder may be a contributing factor in upwards of 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer per year.
Facts about talcum powder and its common uses
Talcum powder is derived from talc, which is a mineral comprised mostly of silicon, magnesium and oxygen. When rendered in powder form, it works to absorb excess moisture, reduces friction and successfully keeps skin rashes at bay. Many cosmetic products incorporate talcum powder in their formulations, including baby powders, facial powders and products used for feminine hygiene purposes. The last of these uses has been of greatest concern to safety advocates, as research has supported to proposition that a surprisingly large number of women may have developed cases of ovarian cancer due to talcum powder use, when talc made its way to the Fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus.
Research linking talcum powder and cancer
Despite the fact that talc has been a staple of cosmetic products for hundreds, if not thousands of years, several research studies have found strong connections between the use of talcum powders for feminine hygiene purposes and the development of ovarian cancer.
Specifically, in 1971, a pivotal study of talcum powder risks found that 75% of all ovarian tumors actually contained talc. A 2013 study in the Cancer Prevention Research journal examined data for roughly 2,000 women with a history of using talcum powder for genital hygiene. The research revealed that women using talc in this way were likely to face a 20-30% increase in their risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who did not make similar use of such products.
Fundamentals of talcum powder lawsuits
Lawsuits undertaken by individuals who believe their ovarian cancer was the result of their use of talcum powder will certainly face a series of challenges when doing battle with cosmetic and personal care industry giants such as Johnson & Johnson.
To establish claims that talc product manufacturers negligently failed to warn consumers of known risks, that they marketed and sold a product known to be dangerous in the manner in which it was likely to be used and that they downplayed research studies pointing to potential harm, plaintiffs will need the help of medical experts, case investigators and skilled product liability attorneys.
Lawyers currently reviewing possible talcum powder lawsuits are making assessments of the damages sustained by individual plaintiffs, analyzing questions of causation and advising prospective clients of their legal options.
Successful plaintiffs in talc cancer lawsuits may be able to receive payments for:
- Past, current and future medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Severe emotional distress
- Lost wages/diminished earning capacity
- Funeral expenses, in cases of death
- Loss of consortium and of family relationships
While financial compensation is certainly a motivating factor for many who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer due to talcum powder use, the pursuit of justice and accountability from manufacturers who have disregarded public safety in the name of profit is also a formidable driver for those considering a baby powder lawsuit.
Talcum powder lawsuit verdicts
2013 saw the first major talcum powder trial reach a federal court in South Dakota. The jury in that case found in favor of the plaintiff, who argued that her use of a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder product for feminine hygiene purposes led to her development of ovarian cancer. During the trial, a Harvard-based expert medical witness testified that upwards of 10,000 cases of this type of cancer may be attributable, at least in part, to talcum powder exposure. While the plaintiff won her case against J&J, she did not recover any monetary damages.
J&J loses first two cases, ordered to pay millions
A second talc cancer trial proved much more costly for Johnson and Johnson. In February 2016, a St. Louis jury ordered the company to pay $72 million in damages to the family of Jackie Fox, who succumbed to ovarian cancer after years of using the defendants talc products. The attention-grabbing decision included a staggering $62 million in punitive damages. Missouri jurors found J&J liable for negligence, fraud and conspiracy and told reporters at Reuters they were influenced by documents showing that J&J staff knew of talc’s possible cancer risk. “And it really looked like instead of trying to investigate, they started talking about how to combat what would eventually be a court case,” juror Jerome Kendrick said in an interview.
An Alabama resident, Fox had used the defendant’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products for feminine freshness for more than 35 years. She passed away months before the trial, but the suit was continued by her family who argued that J&J covered up talc cancer risks from the public and regulatory agencies. The trial and stunning verdict sends an unmistakable signal to J&J, which faces some 1,000 lawsuits in Missouri circuit court and another 131 baby powder claims in New Jersey. A company spokesman says that J&J plans to appeal the verdict.
On May 2, 2016, J&J lost their second case in Missouri state court and were ordered to pay Gloria Ristesund $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. The plaintiff had used Shower to Shower and Baby Powder on her genitals for decades before developing ovarian cancer. She was later forced to undergo a hysterectomy. This second verdict will also be appealed, states a J&J spokesperson.
The $55 million judgement has triggered renewed hope for other plaintiffs with pending talc cancer litigation.
Women who believe they may have been harmed by a talc-based product may want to consider contacting a talcum powder lawyer to discuss their legal options.
Manufacturer and FDA failure to warn consumers
Despite the fact that research studies have long make the link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer risk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been startlingly silent on the matter. There has been no consumer warning issued to the public, no advertising or labeling changes required, and there appear to be no plans for any such actions to be taken by the agency.
Though the Cancer Prevention Coalition has made specific requests to the FDA to issue warning statements regarding perineal talcum powder use, so far there has been no movement.
The absence of widespread warnings about the connection between talcum powder and an increased likelihood of ovarian cancer can also be attributed to the acts and omissions of cosmetic industry giants and the manufacturers of talc-based body powders. Disregarding the volume of research underscoring the link, the cosmetic industry has consistently downplayed or questioned the accuracy of reported findings.
Johnson & Johnson’s own medical director specifically denied that talc caused cancer. In recent litigation, it was revealed that even though the company’s executives were well aware of the mounting research studies, they deemed any possible risk to be so insignificant that consumer warnings were unnecessary.
In the face of repeated calls for warnings by consumer advocates and medical experts, the talcum powder industry has remained steadfast in its unwillingness to alert the public to the dangers posed by certain uses of talc.
- American Cancer Society, Talcum Powder and Cancer, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/talcum-powder-and-cancer
- The Guardian, Should I stop using talcum powder?, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/23/should-i-stop-using-talcum-powder
- Cancer Prevention Research, Genital powder use and risk of ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 8,525 caes and 9,859 controls, http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/12/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0037.short