Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay millions to ovarian cancer victims

In two separate cases, juries find Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder is responsible for the victims’ ovarian cancer.

Many women in California routinely use talcum powder to keep their perineal area dry and free of odors. However, the safety of this product has come into question after two separate cases were filed against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that their powder caused the women to develop ovarian cancer.

The cases

USA Today reports that in one of the cases, ovarian cancer and its link to the use of talc for hygienic purposes was established through the production of a memo generated by a medical consultant for Johnson & Johnson in 1997. The company claims that the talc is perfectly safe to use however. The case was filed after a woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The woman died, but the case was pursued on her behalf by her son. The court ruled in favor of the family’s claim and the jury ordered the company to pay a total of $72 million – $62 million was for punitive damages.

Shortly after this ruling, Johnson & Johnson was found responsible for another woman’s development of ovarian cancer in South Dakota. According to CBS News, the jury heard testimony from a medical professional concerning about 20 different studies that show there is a definite link. The woman was awarded $55 million. Johnson & Johnson states that it will appeal both cases.

Scientific studies concerning talc

It should be noted that the studies referred to in the cases above do not completely prove that the powder causes cancer. However, Live Science states that a woman’s immune system could be disrupted if talc makes it into the ovaries. It is one theory that the talc can arrive at the area by traveling up the upper genital tract through the vagina. However, more research is needed to confirm or dismiss this theory.

What is known, is that tissue from lymph nodes, and from ovaries of women with the cancer has contained talc. Researchers are trying to determine how much talc enters the vagina and how much is being used in every application by the women. They do say that the more applications of the powder or the longer the use, the greater the risk for cancer. The studies also indicate a 30 percent higher risk for ovarian cancer in women who regularly use talc.

Seeking legal help

When a product causes people in Orange County harm, the law gives them the right to seek financial compensation. This compensation can be for economic damages, such as medical bills, treatment and lost wages; or for non-economic damages like mental pain and anguish. Additionally, people may be awarded punitive damages if the court feels that the company knew of the risk and deliberately kept it from the public. Speaking with a knowledgeable attorney can help people understand what their next step should be.