J&J gets hit with $72M verdict over link between Talc powder and cancer

Litigation alleging that Johnson & Johnson Talc-based powder caused a woman to develop ovarian cancer led to a $72 million verdict against the manufacturer on February 22, 2016. The Missouri litigation was one of almost 1,200 similar pending cases across the country. To date, only two Talc powder cases have gone to trial. In both cases, women alleged that their ovarian cancer was caused by the use of J&J’s talc-powder products for feminine hygiene over the course of decades.

Verdict

When the first case was litigated in 2013, a federal Jury in South Dakota found that J&J was negligent, but the jury did not award damages to the injured woman, who was in remission at the time of the trial. In the latest litigation, the jury found in favor of the survivors of the Talc powder user, finding against J&J on negligence, failure to warn, and conspiracy claims. The jury assessed $10 million in compensatory damages for the personal injuries of the deceased woman and $62 million in punitive damages against J&J. One of the jurors in the Missouri litigation indicated that he was persuaded by evidence that J&J was aware of concerns about a cancer risk and instead of investigating the problem, seemed to begin preparing for potential litigation.

Other litigation

The next ovarian cancer and Talc-based powder case is set for trial in April 2016. While the most recent verdict suggests that other plaintiffs may find success in similar litigation, the conclusion is not a certainty. To succeed at trial, plaintiffs in such litigation need to demonstrate a causal link between Talc and ovarian cancer as well as proof that the Talc, and not something else, was responsible for the individual’s cancer. While the Talc litigation is significant in scope, it is minor when compared to other legal threats faced by J&J. For example, J&J’s Ethicon unit is facing 44,000 cases from women allegedly harmed by pelvic mesh (see $3.2M verdict stands in transvaginal mesh device injury suit, Health Law Daily, August 20, 2015).The company’s DePuy subsidiary has another 8,000 cases related to its metal-on-metal hip system (see DePuy’s preemption argument falls apart in hip implant litigation, Health Law Daily, July 22, 2014).