For years, consumers were told that talcum powder products such as baby powder and body powder were gentle, safe and effective to use, but a growing number of studies have linked genital use of talcum powder with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Despite these studies, manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson have failed to put warnings about the risk of ovarian cancer or genital use on their products, or to avoid using talcum powder in favor of safer alternatives, such as cornstarch. Thousands of women who used these products and developed ovarian cancer have brought lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. Most of these lawsuits have been filed in state courts in California, New Jersey and Missouri or a federal court in New Jersey. To date, five of these cases have gone to trial, with four plaintiff verdicts (three of which resulted in multimillion verdicts) and one defense verdict.
The first talcum powder ovarian cancer case to go to trial was Deane Berg v. Johnson & Johnson which was filed in South Dakota and went to verdict in October, 2013. Ms. Berg was diagnosed with cancer after 30 years of talcum powder use. Although she was in remission when the lawsuit was filed, she died several months before trial. The jury found that Johnson and Johnson failed to provide proper warnings about ovarian cancer but did not award any damages against Johnson & Johnson.
Three talcum powder cases went to trial in St. Louis, Missouri in 2016 and all of them resulted in multimillion dollars for the plaintiffs. All of these cases are part of Hogans, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., No. 1422-CC09012 (22d Cir. Mo.). Johnson & Johnson has indicated that it intends to appeal all of these cases.
The first of the Missouri cases was Jacqueline Fox v. Johnson & Johnson , with a verdict in February, 2016. Ms. Fox used Johnson and Johnson baby powder and another talc product for feminine hygiene until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died in October, 2015. The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $72 million against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. This award included $10 million worth of compensatory damages to compensate the plaintiff for her injuries and $62 million worth of punitive damages to punish the defendants for their misconduct. Imerys Talc America, the company which supplied talc to Johnson & Johnson was also sued, but the jury did not award any damages against it.
The second Missouri case was Gloria Ristesund v. Johnson and Johnson, which went to verdict in May, 2016. Ms. Ristesund was 57 when she was diagnosed and 62 when she died. She used talcum powder products for 40 years. Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. were each found to be at fault, but once again the talc supplier, Imerys, was not found to be responsible for Ms. Ristesund’s injuries and death. The jury awarded of $55 million, which included $50 million worth of punitive damages
The final Missouri case tried in 2016 was Deborah Giannecchini v. Johnson & Johnson, which resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict in October, 2016. Ms. Giannecchini used Johnson baby powder for more than 40 years and developed Stage IV ovarian cancer. She underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and had her spleen, colon, uterus and ovaries removed. Although still living at the time of trial, her attorneys gave her an 80% chance of dying within the next 2 years. In this case, the jury awarded money against Imerys, the talc supplier, as well as Johnson & Johnson.
In March, 2017, Johnson & Johnson obtained its first defense verdict. The case was Nora Daniels v. Johnson & Johnson. Ms. Daniels, a mother of two, who used Johnson Baby powder for 36 years until she was diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer in 2013, is one of the more than 2500 women who have filed lawsuits in state court in St. Louis, Missouri. More talcum powder cases are likely to go to trial this year, including a California case currently scheduled to begin in July.