Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $417m in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer
UPDATE, 10/24/17: A judge on Friday tossed out a $417 million jury award to Eva Echeverria, the woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder for feminine hygiene.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted the company’s request for a new trial, saying there were errors and jury misconduct in the previous trial that ended with the award two months ago.
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Nelson also ruled that there wasn’t convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice and the award for damages was excessive.
The decision will be appealed even though Echeverria has died, said her attorney, Mark Robinson Jr.
“We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product,” he said in a statement.
The company said it was pleased with the ruling.
“Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease — but it is not caused by the cosmetic-grade talc we have used in Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades. The science is clear and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder as we prepare for additional trials in the U.S.,” spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement.Similar allegations have led to hundreds of lawsuits against the New Jersey-based company. Jury awards have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.
However, on Tuesday a Missouri appellate court threw out a $72 million award to the family of an Alabama woman who has died, ruling that the state wasn’t the proper jurisdiction for such a case.
The court cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that placed limits on where injury lawsuits could be filed, saying state courts cannot hear claims against companies not based in the state where alleged injuries occurred.
ORIGINAL, 8/22/2017: A jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417M to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s iconic baby powder for feminine hygiene.
The Los Angeles jury’s decision is the largest sum awarded yet in a number of lawsuits that claim the pharmaceutical firm did not adequately warn consumers about potential cancer risks from its talc-based products.
According to court papers, California resident Eva Echeverria used the well-known baby powder on a daily basis from the1950s until 2016 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
Echeverria’s lawyer, Mark Robinson, said his client is undergoing cancer treatment while in hospital and told him she hoped the verdict would lead Johnson & Johnson to put additional warnings on its products.
“She really didn’t want sympathy,” Robinson said. “She just wanted to get a message out to help these other women.”
The jury’s award included $68 million in compensatory damages and $340 million in punitive damages, Robinson confirmed.
A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson has defended the products’ safety and said the company will appeal the jury’s decision.
“Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease,” Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement. “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
The verdict came after a Missouri jury awarded $110.5 million in May to a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Three other trials in the state had similar outcomes last year, with juries awarding damages of more than $300 million.
Since the medical issue hit the courts, ovarian cancer charities in the UK have responded with advice for women. A factsheet published by Ovacome says there is no definitive link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
“We still do not know what really causes ovarian cancer,” the charity says. “But it is likely to be a combination of many different inherited and environmental factors, rather than one cause such as talc. It is also important to remember that, out of the millions of women, many of whom use talc, only a very small number will develop ovarian cancer each year. So even if talc does increase the risk slightly, very few women who use talc will ever get ovarian cancer. Also, if someone has ovarian cancer and used talc, it seems unlikely that using talc was the reason they developed the cancer.”
Additional reporting from Associated Press.