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Johnson & Johnson, a long-time trusted name when it comes to everyday household goods and pharmaceuticals, has seen its reputation suffer in recent years due to problems with some of its products such as Risperdal, transvaginal mesh, and now, baby powder.

Within the last few months, two separate juries have ordered Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) to pay huge awards over claims that its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.   In the litigation, lawyers argued that J&J knew of the health risks associated with talc but failed to warn consumers.  In both cases the juries agreed … to the combined tune of $137 million in damages (of which $112 million was for punitive damages).

Specifically, on May 2, 2016, a jury ordered J&J to pay $55 million to Gloria Ristesund who developed ovarian cancer after using J&J’s talcum powder for over 35 years and, just two months prior to the Ristesund verdict, a St. Louis jury awarded $72 million to the family of Jackie Fox who died of ovarian cancer in 2015.

Internal J&J documents produced during the trials demonstrated that the company was well aware of studies connecting talc use and ovarian cancer.  In fact, one of the lawyers for Ms. Fox stated, “It is hard to imagine how corporate executives could be so callous.  But the internal company documents that were brought to light through this trial show clearly that that is exactly the case.”

Johnson’s Baby Powder is made with talc and the product claims a large percentage of the nearly $19 billion baby powder market in the United States.   These talc products represent a major source of profit for the U.S. healthcare giant.  Because these products are classified as cosmetics, they do not have to undergo review by the Food and Drug Administration.  However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classifies talc as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

For a large company like J&J, it’s all about the money.  However, these two verdicts may very well be the start of a costly trend for J&J.

Internal company documents produced during the trials showed that J&J specifically marketed the allegedly dangerous products to Hispanic and African-American women despite its awareness of scientific studies dating back to the 1970’s showing talc is unsafe.  After the trial, Ms. Ristesund’s attorney stated, “The evidence is real clear that Johnson & Johnson has known about the dangers associated with talcum powder for over 30 years.  Instead of giving a warning, what they did was target the groups most at risk for developing ovarian cancer, specifically marketing to overweight women, blacks and Latinos.”

If you or a loved one has regularly used talcum powder and subsequently developed ovarian cancer, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer seeking compensation for current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages. There is a time limit for filing a claim, so do not hesitate to contact Paglialunga & Harris today for a free consultation.

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