After being battered by a series of multimillion-dollar verdicts from juries finding its talcum powder caused ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson is set to face three plaintiffs in a single trial scheduled to start Monday, June 5, in St. Louis.
The upcoming trial is described by CVN (Courtroom View Network) as the first multi-plaintiff trial in St. Louis over the risks from Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing women’s hygiene products.
Circuit Judge Rex M. Burlison on May 17 issued an order granting a plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate three cases for trial. The three plaintiffs whose cases will be heard together are Michael Blaes, Savanna Crews and Darlene Evans.
Court spokesman Thom Gross told Drugwatch that a pretrial conference will be conducted Monday, and that if the case goes forward, jury selection will be conducted on Tuesday. Because some related cases are on appeal, Gross said, the plaintiffs may elect to delay the trial until a ruling from the appeals court.
St. Louis Jurors Upheld Ovarian Cancer Claims 4 Times
The Missouri courthouse where the trial is scheduled to be held has already been host to five talc trials, four of which have ended with unfavorable verdicts against the pharmaceutical giant:
- In May 2017, a jury in St. Louis awarded $110 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Lois Slemp, 62, of Virginia, who said Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused her ovarian cancer after more than 40 years of using baby powder and Shower to Shower. After her cancer was diagnosed in 2012, it spread to her liver. In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it deeply sympathizes with the women and families bringing lawsuits, but questioned the science behind the jury’s finding. The company said it would appeal.
- In March 2017, jurors ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson, and declined to award plaintiff Nora Daniels, 55, any money on her claim that the company’s talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.
- In October 2016, jurors ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay nearly $70 million, and codefendant Imerys Talc America, Inc., to pay $2.5 million to Deborah Giannecchini, a 63-year-old woman who said talcum powder caused her stage 4 ovarian cancer. She said she used baby powder for about 40 years. Her doctors said she has an 80 percent chance of dying in the next two years. A juror in the case was critical of J&J, telling Bloomberg that, “It seemed like they didn’t care.” The corporation planned to appeal.
- In May 2016, a jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $55 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Gloria Ristesund, who said she, too, used the powder for feminine hygiene for about 40 years. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. The jury concluded J&J was liable for the cancer and had hid the risks. “After we agreed on that, everything was easy,” jury forewoman Teri Brickey told Bloomberg. “We felt like they knew for decades that they should have put a warning on this product.” Johnson & Johnson planned to appeal.
- In February 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded the family of a deceased woman, Jackie Fox, $72 million. Fox died of ovarian cancer in 2015 after using the talc products more than 35 years. She was 62.
J&J: Studies Linking Talc to Cancer Are Inconclusive
Studies have found a possible link between using talcum powder on female genitals and ovarian cancer as far back as 1971. The most recent study in 2013, which analyzed data from 16 different research papers, concluded, as did earlier research, that using talcum powder on female genitals increased the risk of ovarian cancer by about 30 percent.
Although Johnson & Johnson was aware of the research, the company has said it was inconclusive. Consequently, the major pharmaceuticals corporation never put a warning on its talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 1,000 similar lawsuits in state and federal courts around the nation.