Talcum Powder Lawsuit

For decades, talcum powder was thought safe enough to use on infants and children and in sensitive areas of the body but it may have contributed to the development of ovarian cancer in thousands of women.  Over 9,000 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers.

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For more than 40 years there have been suspicions in the medical industry that the use of talcum powder is related to the development of cancer in the reproductive system.  Though the development of ovarian cancer is likely dependent upon a number of factors, there is some evidence that talc particles may travel through the vagina and fallopian tubes and to the ovaries, increasing the risk for development of ovarian cancer.

The first study linking the use of talcum powder to ovarian cancer was conducted in 1971 when researchers found that 75% of the ovarian cancer tumors contained talc particles.  A decade later, a Harvard University researcher found a 30% increase in ovarian cancer in women who used talcum powder products frequently.  A 1997 internal memo shows that Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower body powder, knew of the potential risk but believed the risk was too low to justify warnings or discontinue marketing their products.

Despite the original findings and subsequent studies that have supported the original research, talc mining companies and Johnson & Johnson continue to argue against the connection citing insufficient evidence. The company has also managed to keep its product on the market without a warning for nearly half a century after the original discovery.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against talcum powder manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson, by women or families of those who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using body care products containing talcum powder.  Thus far, juries have awarded nearly $5 billion to plaintiffs but about 9,000 lawsuits have yet to be decided and many more may be expected.

What is talcum powder?

Talcum powder is a powderized form of talc, magnesium silicate which is mined from naturally-occurring deposits in certain areas of the U.S. and around the world.  It is often found near asbestos deposits and the earliest talcum powder products may have contained asbestos.

Once a link between asbestos and cancer was clearly established, manufacturers began refining their talcum powder products to ensure that they were “asbestos-free”.  Talc itself, though, is known to be irritating and has contributed to respiratory problems like asthma and other lung conditions.  It may also contribute to the development of ovarian cancer when used in the perineal or genital region.

Talcum powder was the primary ingredient in a number of body care products including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower body powder.  Talcum powder was an essential ingredient, chosen for its absorbent properties to dry up moisture, reduce odor and soothe skin.  Due to increasing pressure, most manufacturers have replaced the talc in their products with other absorbent powders such as cornstarch or arrowroot powder.

Ovarian Cancer Patient Wins Lawsuit against Talcum Powder Manufacturer

The first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit was won against Johnson & Johnson in federal court in 2013.  One of the leading experts in talcum-related cancer research, Dr. Daniel Cramer, testified on behalf of the plaintiff and suggested talc has been the cause of a number of ovarian cancers throughout the years.

During the course of the trial, a Johnson & Johnson attorney admitted the company was aware of the link between talcum powder and cancer, but viewed the risk as insignificant and neglected to warn consumers of the potential danger on the product’s label. At the same time, the company was increasing marketing activities of their products, particularly in the African-American and Hispanic demographics.

Since 2013, a number of lawsuits have resulted in large jury awards against Johnson & Johnson.  Notable cases include:

  • 2016 – $72 million awarded to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for decades
  • 2016 – $55 million to a woman who required multiple surgeries, including hysterectomy due to ovarian cancer
  • 2016 – $70 million award a woman whose was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and who had used talcum powder for 40 years
  • 2017 – $417 million to a woman who developed terminal ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for a number of years
  • 2017 – $110 million to an ovarian cancer patient who had used talcum powder for 40 years
  • 2018 – A Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion to a group of 22 women who were all diagnosed with ovarian cancer and who had used talcum powder products for a number of years

Talcum powder cancer lawsuits are just the most recent in a long list of product liability lawsuits brought against Johnson & Johnson.  Notable J&J medical injury lawsuits include those filed for injuries by medical devices such as transvaginal mesh, Bausch & Lomb contact lenses, hip replacement parts and prescription drugs such as Invokana.

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Over $5 billion has been awarded to ovarian cancer lawsuit plaintiffs but more than 9,000 cases have yet to be settled including:

  • 6,900 federal lawsuits in U.S. District Court in New Jersey
  • 500 state lawsuits in New Jersey State Court in Atlantic County
  • 800 state lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court in California
  • 1,700 state lawsuits in St. Louis Circuit Court in Missouri

In past medical injury lawsuits, plaintiffs have received compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and in some cases, punitive damages.  Family members may be eligible for wrongful death compensation if the victim has died.

Each case is unique and must be evaluated individually but women or family members of those who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder may be eligible for compensation.  Seek advice from a legal expert.

View Sources

  1. Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $55 mln in talc-powder trial, Reuters (5/2016) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-talc-verdict-idUSKCN0XT20L
  2. J&J must pay $72 million for cancer death linked to talcum powder: lawyers, Reuters (2/2016) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-verdict-idUSKCN0VW20A
  3. J&J Has a Baby Powder Problem, Bloomberg (3/2016) https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baby-powder-cancer-lawsuits/
  4. Johnson’s Baby Powder (1992 internal memo), Bloomberg (3/2016) https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baby-powder-cancer-lawsuits/img/baby_powder_major_opportunities_and_major_obstacles.pdf
  5. The Association Between Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer, Epidemiology (3/2016) http://journals.lww.com/epidem/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2016&issue=05000&article=00006&type=abstract
  6. J&J Loses Third Trial Over Cancer Link to Talcum Powder, Bloomberg (10/2016) https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjeqYz5qMzcAhWJjlkKHUeIC9IQFjAAegQIABAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bloomberg.com%2Fnews%2Farticles%2F2016-10-28%2Fj-j-loses-jury-verdict-in-third-talc-cancer-link-trial&usg=AOvVaw3wMcTVyKO7VGbyFOZ-wiXP
  7. Perineal use of talc and risk of ovarian cancer, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health (6/2008) http://jech.bmj.com/content/62/4/358.full
  8. Record $417M award in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer, Associated Press (8/2017) https://apnews.com/3b0cb95186a84b9787bd382cc947c626
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