Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $417m to woman claiming to have developed ovarian cancer from baby powder

Baby powder maker is forced to pay multimillion-dollar damages by Californian state, but it may not be the last 

Nate Raymond
Tuesday 22 August 2017 08:07 BST
Lawsuit claims the firm failed to warn customers about the risks of cancer from using some of its products
Lawsuit claims the firm failed to warn customers about the risks of cancer from using some of its products

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $417m (£325m) to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder made by the company.

The jury’s verdict in favour of California resident Eva Echeverria was the largest yet in lawsuits alleging J&J failed to adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products.

“We are grateful for the jury’s verdict on this matter and that Eva Echeverria was able to have her day in court,” Mark Robinson, her lawyer, said.

The verdict by Los Angeles Superior Court included $70m in compensatory damages and $347m in punitive damages. It was a major setback for J&J, which faces 4,800 similar claims nationally in the US and has been told to pay more than $300m after verdicts by juries in Missouri.

“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” J&J said.

Ms Echeverria’s lawsuit was the first out of hundreds of California talc cases to go to trial.

The 63-year-old claimed she developed terminal ovarian cancer after decades of using J&J’s products for feminine hygiene. Her lawyers argued J&J encouraged women to use its products despite knowing of studies linking ovarian cancer to genital talc use.

J&J’s lawyers countered that studies and federal agencies have not found that talc products are carcinogenic.

The trial follows five previous ones in Missouri, where many lawsuits are pending.

J&J lost four of those trials and, along with a talc supplier, has been hit with $307m in verdicts. Before Monday, the largest verdict was for $110m.

The Missouri cases, which have largely been brought by out-of-state plaintiffs, have faced jurisdictional questions after the US Supreme Court issued a ruling in June that limited where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.

In a case involving pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Supreme Court said state courts cannot hear claims against firms when the alleged injuries occurred outside of the state’s jurisdiction.

The ruling prompted a St Louis judge, at the urging of J&J, to declare a mistrial in a talc case already under way.

The judge nonetheless left the door open for the plaintiffs to argue they still have jurisdiction based on a Missouri-based bottler J&J used to package its products.


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