Yesterday, a jury in a Missouri state court ordered healthcare products company Johnson and Johnson to pay $55 million dollars to a woman who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene purposes.
The trial of Gloria Ristesund vs. Johnson and Johnson (J&J) lasted for three weeks, during which time the plaintiff testified that the company failed to warn consumers of the cancer risks associated with talc-based product usage. RIstesund testified that she had used both J&J Baby Powder and the company’s Shower to Shower product on her genital area for decades.
According to her attorney, as a result of this constant use of talc-based products, RIstesund was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy and other related surgeries. Though her cancer is now in remission, the jury awarded her $5 million in compensatory damages and $55 million in punitive damages.
J&J maintains that they had no reason to warn customers of cancer risks, and company spokesperson Carol Goodrich told the press that the verdict contradicts 30 years of research supporting the safety of the cosmetic talc used in the powder products.
She noted that the company will appeal the verdict and continue to defend the safety of its talc-based products.
The Ristesund verdict comes on the heels of a similar verdict from the same court in February. In that trial, the family of a deceased ovarian cancer victim received $72 million after it was determined that her talc use did indeed contribute to her cancer diagnosis and ultimate death. J&J is also appealing that verdict, though experts note that these latest two cases have indeed sparked re-interest in in talcum powder-related lawsuits.
These aforementioned suits alleged that Johnson and Johnson knew about the dangers of using talc in its products yet failed to warn its customers. J&J denies those allegations and told Reuters in a recent article that they acted properly in developing and marketing their products.
The only other talc powder-related case tried thus far happened in 2013 in South Dakota, where the jury determined that J&J was indeed negligent though awarded no damages to the plaintiff, who also had ovarian cancer but was – at the time of trial – in remission.
Many compare this talc controversy to that of the asbestos industry where – for decades – asbestos product manufacturers used the toxic mineral in their products, despite the fact that most of them were quite aware of its dangers and the fact that asbestos exposure was sickening both their employees and the consumers using their products.
Asbestos companies have faced tens of thousands of lawsuits and many of them declared bankruptcy but have now set up asbestos trust funds to compensate victims.