Last year, Johnson & Johnson was hit with $197 million in verdicts by three separate juries who ruled that the company failed to warn consumers that their talcum powder products caused cancer in women.
Since 2014, surviving women and their families have filed over 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits against the consumer medical goods giant.
It’s a product liability fiasco that could cost the company even hundreds of millions more over the coming months.
Why Are Women Suing Johnson & Johnson Over Talcum Powder?
Why have so many families launched litigation over claims that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products caused cancer in women?
The story begins with a 1976 medical study that found proof that talcum contained cancer-causing asbestos fibers. But lawyers for women with cancer who used these products have alleged that Johnson and Johnson knew about these reports but never moved to put warning labels on their talcum power products.
That’s over four decades of Johnson and Johnson failing to warn their female customers. It was a defective medical product lawsuit in the making.
Finally—in 2014—a physician’s assistant named Deane Berg connected the dots between her Stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis and her daily use of Johnson and Johnson baby powder as a female hygiene product, for over 30 years.
‘What else could it be?’ she told one reporter.
Her first-of-its-kind lawsuit cracked open the door on talcum powder product liability, allowing thousands of other women to file litigation against Johnson and Johson.
Which Talcum Powder Products Are Linked to Cancer in Women?
“A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away,” said the 1980s TV ads for Shower to Shower Powder, “Your body perspires in more places than just under your arms.”
But at the time those ads first appeared, Harvard Medical School research was already being published showing women who used talcum powder were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer.
That same study showed that women who used talcum powder specifically on their genitals or sanitary pads were 300% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The lawyers for Jacqueline Fox, whose surviving family won $72 million in damages, said the woman used Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder for at least 35 years, prior to her death from ovarian cancer in 2015.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits — Thousands More on the Way
To date, US juries have ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay out nearly $200 million in damages to women who were diagnosed with cancer after years of using talcum powder hygiene products made by the company.
They include a $72 million verdict issued in February 2016 to the surviving family of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer. In May of the same year, a Missouri jury ordered the company to pay out $55 million in damages to a South Dakota woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on years’ worth of repeated use of talcum powder products.
Most recently, in October 2016, a California woman won a $70 million verdict after a jury found the company liable for the cancer she developed as a result of using Johnson and Johnson talcum powder products.
Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson say they will appeal these decisions and claim that the scientific studies are inconclusive on the link between talc and cancer in women.
But so far, several courts have ruled against them.
A fourth major trial over Johnson and Johnson talcum products and ovarian cancer is already underway this month. Unlike previous talc lawsuits, this current trial has multiple plaintiffs, featuring 14 people from 12 different states.
And there’s more in the wings.
Nationally, over 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed against Johnson and Johnson over allegations their products for women have caused ovarian cancer.