Estate of Fox v. Johnson & Johnson
Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral, comprised primarily of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. In powder form, it absorbs moisture and reduces friction to help prevent rashes. It’s a popular ingredient for baby powder, adult facial powder and adult body powder.
It’s also dangerous, according to the thousands of talcum powder product liability lawsuits.
Some naturally-occurring talc contains asbestos, which is a known catalyst for a type of cancer called mesothelioma. However, numerous studies now assert a link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The basis of these product liability lawsuits is that manufacturers of the powder failed to warn users of this increased risk when women used the powder for personal hygiene.
Salt Lake City talcum powder injury attorneys at The Esparza Law Group know that nearly 5,000 injury lawsuits are pending against Johnson & Johnson, which is the largest manufacturer of U.S. baby powder products with Johnson’s Baby Powder.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which purchased rights to Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower powder product for $150 million in 2012, has also been named a defendant in a growing number of talc injury lawsuits. Valeant is now fighting to have Johnson & Johnson cover the cost of its legal defense.
Why Are Talc Lawsuits Being Filed?
Plaintiffs of talc injury litigation say application of the powder directly to the genital area, diaphragms, sanitary napkins or condoms allowed toxins in the powder to travel through the reproductive tract to the ovaries. As the American Cancer Society notes, the concern is that the particles travel through the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Plaintiffs in talc litigation say manufacturers of these products knew about this specific danger for at least four decades and did nothing to warn women of the risk and may even have actively worked to conceal it.
Johnson & Johnson insists its baby powder products are safe and plaintiffs lack credible scientific evidence to back their allegations. Not all juries have shared that conclusion.
The American Cancer Society reports research on the issue has returned mix results, but that people might want to avoid or limit their use of talcum powder products until more research can be conducted. The American Association for Cancer Research released a study in 2016 finding a marked increase in the development of epithelial ovarian cancer among black women who used the powder, and further that inflammatory responses could result from inhaling the particles.
Multi-District Litigation in Talc Lawsuits
Class action litigation for product liability claims can be an challenge, considering there are many different ways a product is marketed, sold and used.
Many plaintiffs have instead joined what is known as “multi-district litigation.”
When there are thousands of complex injury lawsuits across many federal districts alleging harm by the same manufacturer for mostly the same breach of care, an “MDL,” as established under 28 U.S.C. Section 1407, helps speed the process by collectively resolving early issues and questions. For instance, if one witness is compelled to provide testimony in thousands of depositions around the U.S., there is a potential for inadvertent inconsistencies. In an MDL, that same witness can be deposed just one time and that testimony is used in numerous individual cases, which are transferred to their respective district court for final judgment.
As far as talc lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, MDL 2738 is pending before the U.S. District Court in the District of New Jersey.
Each time an individual plaintiff is victorious in one of these cases, the odds of the company settling – and for a substantial amount – are higher.
Outcomes of Early Talc Injury Lawsuits
Only a handful of talc injury cases so far have gone to trial against Johnson & Johnson, but outcomes have largely been favorable to plaintiffs. Unfortunately, some of those verdicts were later reversed due to jurisdictional issues.
The first talcum powder injury claim was filed in 2009, involving a physician assistant who used the powder in her undergarments for most of her life. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 49. Johnson & Johnson offered to settle her claim for $1.3 million. She declined that offer, took the case to court and in Berg v. Johnson & Johnson, before the U.S. District Court District of South Dakota Southern Division, jurors awarded plaintiff $127 million.
In 2016, there was the case of Estate of Fox v. Johnson & Johnson, wherein a jury awarded $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages in a Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis. She and 64 other plaintiffs alleged talcum powder contributed to her ovarian cancer and the company failed to warn of the danger. However, that verdict was later reversed by the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District Division Three, concluding Missouri wasn’t the proper jurisdiction for the legal action. The court cited an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, wherein it was decided there must be a connection between the plaintiff and the state where the lawsuit is filed. Just two of the plaintiffs in this action lived in Missouri. Johnson & Johnson is based in New Jersey.
That same year, a Missouri jury awarded $55 million to another plaintiff and the following year, a Missouri jury ordered J&J to pay $110 million.
In 2017, a jury in St. Louis decided a case in defendant’s favor, and a judge in New Jersey dismissed two similar claims. A Los Angeles jury sided with plaintiff, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a 63-year-old woman there who developed ovarian cancer after using the baby powder for several decades. A superior court judge tossed the verdict and granted the company’s motion for a new trial, citing an alleged insufficiency of evidence and excessive damages. Plaintiffs appealed.
These cases are incredibly complex, and require an experienced talc injury attorney with proven success in the highly specific legal area of product liability litigation.
Contact the Salt Lake City talcum powder injury attorneys at the James Esparza Law Group by calling toll-free 800-745-4050.
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Our dedicated attorneys in Salt Lake City can help you file your Talc lawsuit and navigate through what is a confusing process.