LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California jury on Monday awarded $417 million to a 63-year-old woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder.
The verdict marks the first time Johnson & Johnson has faced a jury trial in California over claims that its talc products cause cancer. Jurors delivered the verdict in a Los Angeles court after a three-week trial and over two days of deliberations, according to reports. The award includes $347 million in punitive damages.
The New Jersey-based company, which is litigating 5,500 claims in the United States over its talc products, says it will appeal the jury’s ruling. It has already suffered four defeats from verdicts in St. Louis totaling $300 million, Bloomberg reports.
Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said that the science “supports the safety” of the company’s products.
“We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” Goodrich said in a statement.
The plaintiff in the case, Eva Echeverria, claimed in a lawsuit filed last year that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April 2007. Six other women joined her lawsuit. She said she had used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products since the 1950s.
According to Echeverria's lawsuit, scientists knew as early as the 1960s that talcum powder is a carcinogen and that using it in the genital area increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
Using tactics similar to those deployed by the tobacco industry in downplaying the risks of smoking, and the oil and gas industry in denying climate change, Johnson & Johnson vigorously fought against regulations and misled the public about the safety of its products, according to the complaint.
Echeverria’s lawyer Mark Robinson urged Johnson & Johnson to change its policy and start warning the public about the risks associated with its talc products.
“J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles,” Robinson said outside the courtroom, according to Bloomberg. “There’s a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”
A hydrous magnesium silicate, talc is a natural mineral found in cosmetics, food, gums, and tablets. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientists have raised the possibility of a link between talcum powders and ovarian cancer since the 1960s.
“However, these studies have not conclusively demonstrated such a link, or if such a link existed, what risk factors might be involved,” the FDA states on its website.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson presided over the trial which began on July 26, according to court records.
Robinson Calcagnie attorney Shannon Lukei told Courthouse News that the court had agreed to fast-track Echeverria’s case because of her poor health, but said the other women’s claims are pending.
The firm said in a statement that Echeverria was unable to take the stand during the trial but that jurors heard the dying woman's testimony through a video deposition.
Echeverria said she first used Johnson & Johnson baby powder when she was 11-years-old but stopped in early 2016, after coming across a news story about a woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using the product.
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