Last month, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that Johnson & Johnson must pay $417 million to a 63-year-old California resident. The plaintiff claimed she developed ovarian cancer from using products like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene. The verdict was the largest yet in a series of lawsuits claiming that the New Jersey-based company failed to adequately warn customers about the cancer risks present in their talc-based products.The plaintiff developed terminal ovarian cancer following decades of using Johnson & Johnson talc-based products, specifically, its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products. Her lawyers argued the company encourages women to use its products on their genitals, even though it knows studies link genital talc use to ovarian cancer. The plaintiff allegedly began using the products when she was 11. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
Her attorneys cited several studies that pointed to a link between long-term genital talc use and ovarian cancer, including a 1982 paper suggesting that women who used talcum powder for routine feminine hygiene faced a 92% increased risk for the disease. They also highlighted internal Johnson & Johnson documents dating back to 1964 to prove that the company was aware of the potential danger.
The plaintiff’s lawyer said the plaintiff and he were grateful for the verdict, which included $347 million in punitive damages and $70 million in compensatory damages. The company is facing 5,500 similar claims across the country. It was recently hit with over $300 million in judgments by juries in Missouri alone, where there have been five jury trials about talc-based products. Johnson & Johnson lost four of those trials, which largely were brought by out-of-state plaintiffs. The cases have raised jurisdictional questions after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in June limiting where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.