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Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

In 1894, cosmetic and personal care manufacturer Johnson & Johnson introduced its popular "Johnson's Toilet and Baby Powder" (later Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder). In the early 1980s, the company released another product," Shower to Shower." Both products contained talcum powder.

Millions of people in the United States and Canada have used these products for decades. There is evidence from 1971 that the talc in Johnson & Johnson's baby powder and Shower to Shower contains asbestos particles.

A study that year confirmed that researchers found talc in cancerous ovarian tumors. This sparked decades' worth of studies and debate over whether Johnson & Johnson's personal care products cause ovarian cancer.

It's no secret that scientists have linked asbestos to various cancers, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer. This is why thousands of women have filed ovarian cancer lawsuits.

This section will briefly examine the Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuits. It will also discuss whether J & J's talc-based products cause ovarian cancer. This section will also explain what to do if you believe your cancer is from using Johnson & Johnson's products.

What Is Talcum Powder?

Many companies use talc in products ranging from baby powders to cosmetics. Talc absorbs moisture and helps keep skin dry. Many women use talcum powder directly on their genitals for this reason.

Johnson & Johnson marketed its talc-based baby powder as safe for feminine use. Even today, after facing more than 50,000 lawsuits, the company still insists its product is safe. But, plaintiffs' lawyers in the talc cases disagree.

Does Baby Powder Cause Cancer?

Plaintiffs in the talcum powder lawsuits allege that talcum powder products may cause cancer if women use them on their genitals, which was a primary use for J&J's talc-based "Shower to Shower" and "Baby Powder."

When used in the genital area, the talc particles travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. The claim is that the asbestos in the talc causes damage to these areas, causing cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has vehemently denied these allegations. It argues that there isn't enough statistical data to prove that talc can travel through the reproductive tract. The company still maintains this position despite jury verdicts that say otherwise.

What Does the Research Tell Us?

The scientific evidence on whether talcum powder causes cancer is inconclusive. There have been many studies finding that talcum powder can cause cancer in humans. But several reports say the opposite. It comes down to the fact patterns and evidence in each case.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), it is still unclear if talc increases the risk of cancer in humans. It cites several studies that show a link between talc and ovarian cancer and says the studies were not impartial enough.

In 1982, there was some evidence that talc may cause cancer. Medical researchers found that women who use talcum powder regularly were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer.

Studies have shown that using talc-based powder and other talc-based products increases a woman's chances of developing ovarian cancer by 30%. The International Association for the Research of Cancer (IARC), a widely recognized international authority on cancer, also declared that the use of talc-based body powder on the genital area is "possibly" carcinogenic to humans.

Warning Labels

Many plaintiffs and attorneys have asked why Johnson & Johnson didn't put a warning label on its products. It would have helped the company avoid litigation, and it would've protected women's health.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn't force J&J to add warning labels. Baby powder was a cosmetic product and exempt from FDA safety reviews.

Johnson & Johnson eventually put a limited warning label on Baby Powder. The warning stated that the powder was for "External Use Only." The company urged consumers not to inhale the product. Critics said the warnings did not go far enough.

Early Days of the Johnson & Johnson Litigation

People used Johnson & Johnson's powders for over a century without obvious issues. But in 2009, a woman named Deane Berg from South Dakota sued Johnson & Johnson. She alleged that the company's talc-based powder caused her ovarian cancer. The jury found in favor of Berg but did not award her damages.

This was the first of more than 51,000 lawsuits plaintiffs would file against the personal care behemoth. One of the reasons these cases have been pending for so long is that there is a lot of debate over whether the talc in J&J's powders causes cancer.

What Is the Basis for the J & J Lawsuits?

Since 2013, when the Berg case went to trial, Johnson & Johnson has had to defend thousands of lawsuits. All the lawsuits claim that talcum powder increases consumers' cancer risk and causes ovarian cancer. More recently, plaintiffs have alleged that Johnson & Johnson's powder causes other forms of cancer as well.

The primary claim in most J&J lawsuits is that the company knew its products posed severe health risks but failed to warn consumers. This dates back to 1994 when the Cancer Prevention Coalition wrote a letter to the CEO of Johnson & Johnson asking it to switch from talc-based powder to cornstarch. At the time, the company refused to make the substitution.

The lawsuits also accuse Johnson & Johnson of negligence and breach of implied warranty.

Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits

Several talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits have gone to a jury verdict in recent years. This article describes some of the significant cases below. In all the lawsuits mentioned here, the jury awarded the plaintiffs economic damages, punitive damages, or both.

  • In 2011, Gloria Ristesund developed ovarian cancer after using baby powder on her genitals for years. Her case went to trial (along with close to 100 other plaintiffs), and a jury awarded her $55 million. Two years later, the court overturned the verdict, stating that Ristesund had no standing to sue J&J in Missouri. J&J headquarters is in New Jersey, and she bought the products in South Dakota and Minnesota.
  • In February 2011, a doctor diagnosed Jacqueline Fox with advanced ovarian cancer. She had used baby powder on her underwear since she was a teenager. She died in 2015. In that lawsuit, her lawyers introduced an internal document from Johnson & Johnson that suggested the company knew of the possible health effects of baby powder. Johnson & Johnson still chose to market the product specifically to African-American consumers. A jury awarded Fox's family $72 million in damages. But the court found in favor of the defendant on appeal, stating that, like Ristesund, Fox didn't have standing to sue in Missouri State Court since she was from Alabama.

By 2016, more than 1,800 plaintiffs had filed suits in St. Louis, Missouri. The court ruled that all but a few plaintiffs filed their claims in the wrong jurisdiction. The courts dismissed these claims.

Since then, Johnson & Johnson has faced verdicts and settled cases for more than $3.5 billion during that period.

Johnson & Johnson Sought Protection from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court

It's not unusual for corporations to try to avoid civil liability by filing bankruptcy proceedings. The defendants in the talcum powder cases tried a unique tactic to reduce their potential liability. Johnson & Johnson transferred the litigation to its newly formed subsidiary, LTL Management. It tried to shift the product liability lawsuits to its subsidiary and claim financial distress.

Once the subsidiary filed for bankruptcy, the parent company (Johnson & Johnson) would petition the bankruptcy trustee and judge to approve a one-time settlement for all pending and future cases.

The company had tried negotiating an $8.9 billion settlement through the bankruptcy courts. It tried to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the third time to avoid liability. The goal was to lump the talc lawsuits in with the company's other creditors.

If the judge approved the bankruptcy, future plaintiffs would lose their right to sue Johnson & Johnson. In a move that could benefit tens of thousands of cancer patients, the bankruptcy judge did not approve the bankruptcy. Whether the judge will allow that settlement is unknown as of November 2023.

Do You Believe Johnson & Johnson's Talcum Powder Caused Your Cancer?

You may have a legal claim if you used J & J's talcum powder and experienced asbestos contamination. This is especially true if your doctor has given you an ovarian cancer diagnosis. You'll have to prove that your use of talcum powder led to your diagnosis. You'll also have to do this before the statute of limitations expires.

Consider speaking with a qualified personal injury attorney. They can help you file a talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit and potentially receive financial compensation for your injuries.

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