Less than two months after jurors awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer, a similar case has gone to trial in the same jurisdiction.
Jurors in St. Louis have begun hearing the case involving cancer caused by the use of talc, a common mineral found in personal hygiene powders and cosmetics. Court documents indicate the plaintiff used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder for feminine hygiene purposes and also to ease symptoms of endometriosis, a condition in which the lining of the uterus is outside the uterus and attached to other organs. The woman, now 62, was diagnosed five years ago with endometriod ovarian cancer.
The suit contends that use of the talc-containing powder increased her cancer risk 214 percent. Counsel for the plaintiff told jurors that Johnson & Johnson has known of the cancer risk for decades but has refused to warn consumers that using talc-containing products over an extended period could pose serious health dangers.
When used for female personal hygiene in the genital area, particles of talc — from body powder or products that contain talc, such as tampons — can travel through the reproductive system, settling in the ovaries. Research has found that long-term use of products containing talc can raise cancer risk 30 percent.
There are more than 1,000 lawsuits across the United States involving talc and resulting cancers. In February 2016, jurors in St. Louis found that the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer should receive $72 million from Johnson & Johnson. The case brought to light the fact that the company had known for many years about the cancer risk but had not warned consumers. Also, testimony during the trial noted that Johnson & Johnson had specially targeted African-American women in marketing efforts. African-American women use body powders for personal hygiene at a higher rate than the female population in general.
Such lawsuits are increasing in number, but they are not new. A similar case went to trial in 2013 in South Dakota. The jury there found Johnson & Johnson liable for the plaintiff’s ovarian cancer. The plaintiff turned down a $1.3 million settlement offer from the company because it contained a clause that would have prevented her from speaking about the cancer risk of talc.
To date, none of Johnson & Johnson’s hygiene products that contain talc bear a warning label indicating the cancer risk.