ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Johnson and Johnson prepares to battle with another woman claiming its talcum baby powder caused her ovarian cancer – a case that threatens a domino effect of multi-million dollar verdicts against the healthcare giant.
Already two juries in St. Louis have hit Johnson and Johnson hard for its talcum powder — awarding $72 million to one cancer plaintiff and $55 million to another. Johnson and Johnson is appealing the awards, but the legal challenge facing the company is formidable.
Some 1,800 cases have been filed in St. Louis against Johnson and Johnson for its talcum powder, according to the Onder Law Firm – which claims to have a total of 3,500 talcum powder clients.
Johnson and Johnson attorney John Beisner will argue that there is no scientific link between talc and cancer. The company, at this point, plans to fight each case individually, hoping to convince juries that the science behind the allegations is “totally lacking.”
In a statement, Johnson and Johnson says a judge in New Jersey recently tossed out two baby powder cancer lawsuits for lack of scientific evidence.
But if Johnson and Johnson loses a third case here — with another multi-million dollar judgement — it could put more pressure on the company to offer a settlements.
Related story: Attorney: At Least 1,000 More Baby Powder Lawsuits Filed
This latest case in St. Louis was filed by a woman from Modesto, California. Deborah Giannecchini will testify she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012, after using Johnson and Johnson talcum powder for years.
“Ovarian cancer is obviously a very deadly disease, a very painful and tortuous death unfortunately,” said her attorney Jim Onder. “It’s sad that these women have to needlessly suffer like this, simply because Johnson and Johnson wasn’t willing to put a warning on the label.”
Onder will argue the company knew about the possible risks, but never told consumers.
“It’s one of these things that make you angry,” Onder said, “I mean, had you just known, you could have made an informed decision, and it’s not right for Johnson and Johnson and others to have deprived women of that opportunity.”
The two-week trial is expected to delve into company documents.
“The internal documents show that as the medical community became aware that talc causes cancer, they (Johnson and Johnson) began target-marketing to blacks and hispanics, the two groups they knew were at risk and who were the the highest user rates,” Onder said.
Jury selection is expected to last through Wednesday with opening arguments possible Thursday morning.
Johnson and Johnson released a statement on the case:
“We recognize that women and families affected by ovarian cancer are searching for answers, and we deeply sympathize with everyone affected by this devastating disease. We are defending the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder because science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.
Among the many studies that have confirmed the safety of talcum powder use, two widely-accepted, forward-looking, prospective cohort studies that included more than 130,000 women and were run over a long period of time – the Nurses’ Health Study by the Harvard School of Public Health published in 2000 and 2010 and the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Cohort by the U.S. National Institutes of Health published in 2014 – found no association between talc use for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer. Another forward-looking, prospective cohort study, The Sister Study, published just this year by researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, involved 50,884 women in the US and Puerto Rico and likewise found no association between talc use and ovarian cancer. In addition, no governmental or non-governmental authority has concluded that talc causes ovarian cancer.
Three previous cosmetic talc cases against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. have gone to trial. In October 2013, a jury in Sioux Falls, SD declined to award damages to the plaintiff. In February 2016 and May 2016, juries in St. Louis granted verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs, going against decades of sound science and expert reviews on the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient. The company is appealing those verdicts.
A judge in New Jersey (United States) recently dismissed two cases that were set for trial in that state after finding that the plaintiffs’ experts who alleged Johnson’s Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer could not adequately support their theories, a decision that highlights the lack of scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ allegations. The ruling was made after a two-week hearing specifically held to determine the sufficiency of the scientific evidence at the core of this litigation. The speculative theories put forward by plaintiffs in New Jersey are the same ones being used in all of the cases that have been filed around the United States.”
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