Johnson & Johnson Wins the First of Four Lawsuits Regarding Their Allegedly Cancer-Causing Talcum Products
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
A Missouri State Court jury gave a verdict on Friday in favor of Johnson & Johnson, marking the first win for the company after three major losses. These lawsuits emerged out of the controversy surrounding J&J’s line of talc-based products, which have been linked to ovarian cancer. The plaintiff, Nora Daniels, claimed that she used J&J Baby Powder for 36 years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. However, according to Imerys, J&J’s talc supplier, the jury followed “the science that establishes the safety of talc."
This verdict is the first time a jury has ruled in favor of the company following the three recent losses for J&J which cost it a total of $195 million. A verdict from early 2016 resulted in the company paying $72 million to the family of Jackie Fox, who died of ovarian cancer after using J&J's talcum powder products for many years. Additionally, two other verdicts in the same year cost J&J $55 million and $67.5 million respectively. The pressure has been mounting on the company because, in addition to these recent losses, more than 2,500 lawsuits have been filed in St. Louis, according to a recent Reuters article. It is therefore no surprise that the conglomerate has changed representation multiple times throughout the course of these lawsuits, as reported by the Courtroom View Network.
Arguing the Science
The central aim of the defendant, in this case and others, has been to attack the validity of the science cited by the plaintiff. In an opening statement by Bart H. Williams, the defendant’s counsel, he argued that linking talc to ovarian cancer is like linking baldness to hat wearing, saying “Wearing a hat does not make your hair fall out. There is an association and correlation, but it’s not the cause.” But as Ted Meadows, the plaintiff’s lawyer, pointed out, the defense only started delving into research once litigation began, whereas the plaintiff’s science goes back decades, as early as 1982.
Despite the defense's assertion that talcum powder does not directly cause ovarian cancer, there are plenty of reasons to claim that it does. For instance, according to the Guardian, a meta-analysis in 2003 combined 16 separate studies showing a 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer when talcum powder had been applied to the genitals. And the International Agency for Research on Cancer states that talcum powder is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” For these reasons, plaintiffs argue that J&J should have changed its label to warn of the possible link to cancer. If it had done so at an early stage, it could have meant a reduction of ovarian cancer-related deaths.
A Devastating Loss for Consumers
That Daniels lost this case is troubling indeed, for large corporations like J&J should be held accountable when they willfully ignore science that shows potential links between consumer products and cancer. It is very likely that J&J will continues to reject these allegations in order to minimize the risk of a substantial payout and negative impact on its profit margins. As Meadows put it during the trial, “The love of money results in all manner of evil. You’re gonna see it” (sic).
Ovarian cancer victims hope that J&J’s win is an aberration and not an indication of a new trend, so people like Daniels can get the justice they deserve for J&J's failure to warn of known cancer risks. Time will tell whether justice can succeed against such a powerful corporation.