Johnson & Johnson (acronym J&J) lost another talcum powder lawsuit. On May 2nd, 2016, the jury in St Louis awarded a hefty $55m to a 62-year-old South Dakota woman who claimed that the use of company’s feminine hygiene products led to the development of ovarian cancer in her. J&J currently faces around 1,200 lawsuits claiming the company did not warn of the potential health hazards of its products. The company plans to appeal against the verdict.
In what is considered the second straight trial loss for the company, Johnson & Johnson – world’s largest manufacturers of healthcare products – has been charged with millions of dollars by the jury. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson lost $72m to compensate damage over the claims that its talc-based products, including baby powder, led to the development of fatal ovarian cancer in women.
This time around, the same jury in St Louis passed the verdict based on same claim. The company has been blamed repeatedly over the past for not warning the users of the carcinogenic ingredients present in its products. World’s number one healthcare products company is definitely in hot waters.
On Monday, the St Louis jury ordered that J&J paid $55m to Gloria Ristesund, the plaintiff. The 62-year-old woman from South Dakota claimed using J&J’s talc-based powder products, including Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower Powder, for decades. These products, she believed, gave her the baby powder cancer. Ms Ristesund alleges that the company keeps selling its products and putting hundreds of thousands of live at stake despite being aware of the risk of cancer associated with its products.
Jera Beasley, from the law firm representing the plaintiff, said his client is satisfied with the verdict and the jury’s decision should end the litigation.
Ms Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011, underwent hysterectomy and is currently under remission. After removing the uterus, the doctors found talc in Ristesund’s ovarian tissue which led to the lawsuit against the pharmaceutical and hygiene products giant. The cost of ovarian cancer treatment is tremendously high in the US, to the tune of $174,000.
Ever since the decision of the jury came out, J&J faced an 18% down in its shares. The company currently share value stands at $112.57. And of course it plans to appeal against the verdict.
The verdict has spurred a renewed interest in the talcum powder lawsuits among the law firms, plaintiffs and consumers. The verdict is set to kick-start a number of cases filed against the company – all claiming a lack of warning from the company regarding the talcum powder cancer. J&J currently faces well over 1,200 lawsuits.
J&J, on the other hand, claims it follows the criteria for developing and marketing the products. “We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial,” said Carol Goodrich, J&J spokeswoman, earlier this year, adding that “we sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
Earlier this year in February, the same jury, deciding the company was hiding something, ordered J&J to pay $72m to the family of the deceased woman, Jackie Fox, who died of ovarian cancer. In the litigation, the family blamed the use of company’s talc powder for feminine hygiene for the cancer.
A similar case was filed back in 2013 in South Dakota Federal Court but it resulted in a mixed verdict. The court snubbed J&J over its negligence but awarded no compensation to the plaintiff.
Talcum Powder Case: Controversy About Johnson & Johnson Talc-Related Products
Despite the shockingly big sum J&J has been ordered to pay, the current lawsuit has not been the only litigation against the pharmaceutical giant. Since 2013, J&J has spent over $5 billion to resolve lawsuits against its products.
The lawsuits claim that despite being aware of the risk of talcum powder cancer, the company hasn’t taken steps to curtail the threat, let alone warn the consumers. This, the claimants believe, is the breach of trust.
Talc, the softest mineral in the world, is used extensively in medicines and healthcare products on account of its absorbent properties. A combination of magnesium, silicon and oxygen, talc is mined in dozens of the countries in the world. J&J biggest source of talc is Southern China (the province of Guangxi).
J&J has been manufacturing and marketing its talc-related products for over a century. Half a century after the inception of the firm, British researchers found a connection between talc and ovarian cancer in 1971. In their analysis of 13 ovarian tumors, they found talc deeply embedded in 10. Ever since, more and studies are being published in many journals around the world underlining the link between talc-products and risk of ovarian cancer. However, the findings of the majority of these studies are mixed and lack a definitive connection. J&J has spurned all such allegations, maintaining talc is benign and the statistical correlations between the use of talc and development of ovarian cancer are weak, limited and based on unauthentic data.
Amid the criticism, J&J has removed other ingredients from its products that it thought were harmful for babies, such as triclosan and formaldehyde. Removing talc from the baby powder is not easy for the company since it is their signature product. Acknowledging the risk can put the whole J&J brand at risk.