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Third Time Not a Charm: J&J Loses Another Baby Powder Case

A St. Louis Jury Awards Woman $70 Million Over Claims the Brunswick-Based Company's Talcum Powder Caused Her Ovarian Cancer
Baby powder
J&J loses its third consecutive talcum powder case. Dave Schatz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Another jury in St. Louis awarded a different woman millions of dollars over claims that Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) baby powder, which contains talc, caused her ovarian cancer.

The loss, J&J’s third in a row over an alleged injury from using the pharmaceutical giant’s simple talcum powder, this time, resulted in a $70 million award, reports Bloomberg. 

Despite the string of expensive losses in court, J&J continues to maintain its position that its product is safe, saying "Science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc."

The Hub City-based healthcare giant “is accused in about 1,700 lawsuits in state and federal court of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk,” reads the report from Bloomberg.

The October 27 verdict follows two earlier verdicts this year costing J&J $72 million, and $55 million in damages, both in St. Louis trials, though they are being appealed. 

J&J's Ethicon subsidiary "was ordered to pay $65 million in punitive damages and 90 percent of about $2.5 million for medical costs and pain and suffering," reads the report, while Imerys Talc America, the supplier of the talc, "was hit with $2.5 million in punitive damages."

And it only took jurors three hours to make their decision following closing arguments in the case.  

“It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention,” juror Billie Ray, age 76, told Bloomberg. “It seemed like they didn’t care [about providing proper warnings on containers or packages].”

“I’ve waited for a long time for this,” the plaintiff, Deborah Giannecchini, age 62, who reportedly used J&J’s baby powder for personal hygiene for some 40 years until being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013, told Bloomberg. “I’ve wanted this so badly.”

J&J says, again, it will fight the decision.

“We are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” said J&J in a statement. 

J&J is up against "hundreds of claims in St. Louis state court, which has become a magnet for plaintiffs’ product defect claims, as well as about 300 suits in Los Angeles, another 200 in New Jersey and a growing number of federal cases combined before one judge in that state," reports Bloomberg.

The report points out that J&J disputes the link between talc use and cancer, and at least one judge in the company's home state agrees.

"A New Jersey state court judge last month threw out two talc cases set for trial, finding inadequate scientific support for the claims," writes Bloomberg.

But Giannecchini’s lawyer, Allen Smith, told jurors in the St. Louis trial that J&J was aware of “30 years of studies showing an increased risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talc, [and also] knew the public was unaware of the risk.”

J&J “developed a defense strategy to prevent government regulation of its products,” Bloomberg quoted the attorney as saying.