In the first talc trial to be held before a state jury in California, multinational pharma giant Johnson & Johnson lost $417 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a Los Angeles woman with terminal cancer.
The four-week-long trial culminated Monday after a mere two days of deliberations, during which the jury found that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) had failed to warn consumers about cancer risks associated with talc. J&J and its subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson Consumer, were hit with the verdict when evidence found links between cancer and its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
This case, of course, was only the latest in a torrent of similarly tragic cases involving deceived consumers. That said, this seems to be J&J’s biggest setback yet. The verdict, ranking third among the largest U.S. jury awards in 2017, far surpasses the sum total of eight- and even nine-figure verdicts from previous talc trials in St. Louis.
Talc Products Enter the Fray Once Again
Following five cases held in Missouri state courts over the past two years – four of which Johnson & Johnson lost – California heard the sixth and largest talc-related Johnson & Johnson case to date. Altogether, Missouri talc trials cost J&J $307 million in verdicts and, before now, the largest was for $110 million.
The 62-year-old Los Angeles woman, Eva Echeverria, alongside six other women, filed their lawsuit in July 2016 blaming J&J for their individual ovarian cancer diagnoses. Ms. Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007; she had used J&J’s talc products since the age of 11.
J&J Claims ‘Weak’ Evidence
Across all successful J&J talc cases in the past, the pattern has remained steady: Experts revisit decades’ worth of studies suggesting unmistakable links between ovarian cancer and talc; J&J is found to have neglected, or even refused, to warn of such risks; and the courts find fault in the company ignoring this information for decades.
Unfortunately, J&J’s defense is equally predictable. Again, the company relied heavily on calling into doubt the scientific links between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, pledging unwavering allegiance to its allegedly carcinogenic products.
“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” said J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich.
In reality, scientific evidence continues to mount against the product’s safety, making J&J’s stance more and more far-fetched. Studies show genital use of talcum powder is linked to ovarian cancer and death. No matter whether their consumers survived the ordeal, J&J lacks the dignity to take responsibility for its lethal mistake and show its victims the remorse they deserve.
Johnson & Johnson, as always, will fight tooth and nail to appeal the verdict and continues to seek dismissal of Missouri talc suits. But this won’t even make a dent in the overwhelming 5,500 claims J&J faces in U.S. courts, and consolidated California claims alone are said to have hit the hundreds. With this, it appears that J&J’s troubles in the Golden State are only just beginning.