Are Talcum Powder Makers Responsible for Ovarian Cancer Cases?
Recently, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that expert testimony on the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder use is admissible in an upcoming multi-district litigation (MDL) trial in New Jersey. The ruling is profoundly significant because the defendant in the MDL, personal care giant Johnson & Johnson, has long argued that its talcum powder products are perfectly safe and do not cause cancer.
In fact, Johnson & Johnson filed a motion to disqualify the testimony on the relationship between talcum powder and ovarian cancer from the MDL. Effectively, the judge denied their request.
The ruling was a victory for the MDL’s plaintiffs, roughly 16,000 women who have developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products, including the leading brands Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. (MDLs combine cases with similar claims, facts, and evidence, to eliminate unnecessary duplication of plaintiff and defendant testimony, depositions, and court effort. They result in “bellwether” trials, which often exert a significant impact on important cases affecting large numbers of plaintiffs.) If you or a loved one has been one of those diagnosed with cancer after using talcum powder then speak to a talcum powder cancer lawyer today to discuss your recovery options.
Talc Is Mined With a Cancer-causing Agent, Asbestos
If you’ve seen these headlines, or you or a loved one have ovarian cancer, you might wonder why talcum powder makers are responsible for ovarian cancer cases. After all, Johnson & Johnson argues that it isn’t.
The issue is the potential for talcum powder to contain asbestos. Experts have recognized since the 1970s that asbestos is a definite cancer-causing agent. In fact, its use has been forbidden in U.S. consumer products since that decade.
Asbestos appears in at least some talc, the mineral used in talcum powder and other products, however. Talc and asbestos are both naturally occurring minerals and often appear very close to each other in nature. Because of this, some experts believe that it is close to impossible to mine and use talc without also mining and using some quantity of asbestos.
The MDL is far from the first time Johnson & Johnson has faced plaintiffs alleging that its talcum powder products cause cancer because of the asbestos in them. In past trials on other forms of cancer, plaintiffs have argued successfully that if talc is mined and used, asbestos is likely present.
In other words, when talcum powder makers manufacture and produce talcum powder, they may include asbestos in those products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. The products have thus likely contained asbestos for years. The talc by itself does not cause cancer. In fact, the MDL judge also ruled that experts cannot state that it does.
In the case of ovarian cancer, the judge also ruled plaintiffs’ experts may testify that ovarian cancer may result if talcum powder products are used vaginally. They cannot testify that ovarian cancer can result from inhaling particles of talcum powder products.
In summary, the judge ruled that five plaintiff experts can testify, on the following:
- Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products could contain asbestos
- The relationship between talc and cancer could result from asbestos and/or heavy metals
- Baby powder products can cause ovarian cancer, based on epidemiological studies
- Talcum powder can reach the ovaries if used vaginally
The judge also ruled that Johnson & Johnson can call three experts from its side to present testimony. The company has long argued that its talc is not contaminated with asbestos, and that its talcum powder products are safe.
Johnson & Johnson was careful to frame the judge’s decision as on allowable testimony only, not an endorsement of the validity of the plaintiffs’ expert testimony. Johnson & Johnson has appealed several verdicts in lawsuits about its talc products, and the company states that all these appeals have achieved success to date.
Ovarian cancer plaintiffs have also won significant victories, however. One trial with 22 plaintiffs in St. Louis, Missouri, returned more than $4.6 billion for the plaintiffs in July 2018. Johnson & Johnson is currently appealing the verdict.
It is worth noting that the company recently announced it would no longer produce Baby Powder and other talc-based products, while continuing to manufacture cornstarch-based Baby Powder (which doesn’t use talc). Several news stories claimed that the company might intend the move as a means to put the controversy over talc behind them, although the company framed it as a COVID-19-related tightening of its product line.
Johnson & Johnson Is Also Accused of Withholding Information
While the MDL hinges in part on whether talcum powder products contain cancer-causing asbestos and whether they cause ovarian cancer, cases like this also accuse Johnson & Johnson of withholding information from the public about the potential risks of its products.
Indeed, last year the U.S. Department of Justice announced a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson misled consumers about its talcum powder products, by denying any risk of cancer. If this investigation moves forward, it will take place in criminal courts. Product liability claims, on the other hand, are brought by plaintiffs to civil court.
What This Means for Ovarian Cancer Patients and Their Families
If you are an ovarian cancer patient who used talcum powder products in the past, or know that your loved one used them, talk to an experienced talcum powder ovarian cancer lawyer today. They can provide a free consultation on your specific case and recommend further action if warranted. Lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they are paid out of successful settlements. If no settlement is reached, you will not owe them anything.
Thousands of cases are pending in the MDL, but that doesn’t preclude further cases against Johnson & Johnson or other talcum powder manufacturers.
Ovarian cancer victims can receive damage compensation for medical costs, wages lost from work due to the illness and its treatment, and associated pain and suffering.
Courts may also award punitive damages to plaintiffs. Punitive damages are assessed for a pattern of egregious behavior that does harm, and are designed to punish the defendants.
If your loved one died due to ovarian cancer and used talcum powder products, certain family members in Virginia are entitled to bring wrongful death suits for damage compensation.
If you need further information, contact an experienced product liability lawyer today.