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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Lawyers have filed thousands of lawsuits on behalf of people who developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after exposure to talcum powder products. In 2018, a jury awarded a $117 million mesothelioma verdict and a $4.69 billion ovarian cancer verdict.

People are filing lawsuits against industrial and cosmetic talc manufacturers over claims that talc exposure led to mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. Lawsuits say manufacturers knew talc could cause cancer, but they did nothing to warn consumers about the risk of their products. Instead, manufacturers concealed the dangers from the public.

Industrial talc and cosmetic talc products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, have been implicated in talcum powder-related cancer claims. Lawsuits say inhaling asbestos-contaminated talc led to mesothelioma and genital use of talcum powder led to ovarian cancer.

Companies named in lawsuits include Johnson & Johnson, Vanderbilt Minerals and Colgate-Palmolive. Johnson & Johnson faces the largest group of talc cancer claims. According to its August 2018 quarterly report, the company faces 10,600 lawsuits primarily in Missouri, New Jersey and California courts.

While defendants have won some cases, juries have returned billions of dollars in verdicts for plaintiffs, and lawsuits continue to pour in. Most settlements so far have been with individual plaintiffs for undisclosed amounts.

Talcum Powder and Mesothelioma Cases

Litigation is ongoing in talcum powder lawsuits that claim industrial or cosmetic talc contaminated with asbestos led to mesothelioma. As of April 2018, juries have awarded more than $153 million in talcum powder mesothelioma claims.

People who filed these cases claim inhalation of talcum powder led them to develop mesothelioma and lung disease. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, but some lawsuits argue that with or without asbestos contamination, talc can also lead to the disease.

Plaintiffs cite studies that prove the association between talc and mesothelioma, mainly one by Hull and colleagues published in 2002, according to Claims & Litigation Management Alliance. The study found that talc miners and millers in upstate New York developed mesothelioma from talc even without asbestos contamination.

“Thousands of companies used cosmetic talc in their products over the last hundred years. The entire population could claim exposure, especially to defendants that sold personal care products that could be ingested, inhaled or exposed via air-borne contact.”

Source: American Bar Association

In 2006, a man who worked in a pottery studio filed the first talc mesothelioma case. He claimed exposure to talc made by Vanderbilt led to his mesothelioma diagnosis. He died during litigation, but his widow received $3.35 million.

The most recent lawsuits allege asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talc products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder, can cause mesothelioma.

Stephen Lanzo III was one of the most recent plaintiffs to go to trial. In April 2018, a New Jersey jury awarded Lanzo and his wife $117 million. Lanzo’s lawsuit claimed he developed mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower for decades.

Talcum Powder Contributes to Ovarian Cancer

Lawsuits that claim talcum powder caused ovarian cancer outnumber the mesothelioma claims in part because mesothelioma is rare. Only about 3,000 people get the disease a year, according to the American Cancer Society. In contrast, more than 22,200 women will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis each year.

Courts where ovarian cancer lawsuits are taking place:
  • Federal Court, U.S. District of New Jersey
  • State Court, Atlantic County in New Jersey
  • State Court, Los Angeles Superior Court in California
  • State Court, St. Louis Circuit Court in Missouri

The first ovarian cancer lawsuits did not allege asbestos-contaminated talc caused cancer. Rather, they claimed talc alone could travel into the ovaries and cause inflammation that led to cancer. According to lawsuits, the first studies linking ovarian cancer and talc surfaced in the 1980s, and defendants were aware their products could harm people.

Ovarian cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson garnered substantial media attention with big number verdicts in St. Louis courts: $72 million, $70 million and $55 million. In some of these lawsuits, plaintiff’s expert witnesses testified they found talc particles in the ovaries of women with cancer.

“[Johnson & Johnson] should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”

Source: Mark Lanier, plaintiff’s attorney

The largest verdict to date is $4.7 billion awarded in July 2018 to 22 women who say Johnson & Johnson’s talc products led to their ovarian cancer. Unlike the first cases, this claim was historic because it claimed asbestos — and not just talc — was to blame for ovarian cancer.

As of September 2018, there were 9,142 lawsuits pending in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court. Johnson & Johnson and talc supplier Imerys Talc are the defendants in the MDL. The federal MDL is still in the early stages, and none of those cases have made it to trial yet. Most of the verdicts have been reached in Missouri and California.

Manufacturers and Talc Brands Defend Against Personal Injury Claims

People filed lawsuits against makers of major brands of talcum powder products, the largest of which is Johnson & Johnson. They also sued Imerys Talc and other mining companies that supply these manufacturers with raw talc.

Manufacturers say they intend to vigorously defend against lawsuits. Imerys Talc, Colgate-Palmolive and other companies have attempted to settle some cases confidentially. For example, in July 2018, Colgate-Palmolive paid a confidential settlement to Paul Garcia, who said he developed mesothelioma after using baby powder made by Mennen, a company previously tied to Colgate-Palmolive.

Johnson & Johnson has made no mention of a blanket settlement for its thousands of talcum powder lawsuits thus far, despite the large verdicts against it.

“The Company believes that it has strong grounds on appeal to overturn these verdicts,” Johnson & Johnson said in its second quarter form 10-Q. “The Company has established an accrual for defense costs only in connection with product liability litigation associated with body powders containing talc.”

Top Manufacturers, Suppliers and Brands of Talc Products Named in Lawsuits
Company Brands and Products
Johnson & Johnson Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower
Colgate-Palmolive Cashmere Bouquet
Imerys Talc North America Raw industrial and cosmetic talc
Whittaker, Clark & Daniels Raw cosmetic talc
Vanderbilt Minerals Raw industrial talc

Class Action Claims for Cancer Risk

The majority of litigation in talcum powder cases has been focused on individual lawsuits that claim injuries from talc. But there have been at least four class action lawsuits filed over talc-related products and possible cancer risk. Two have been dismissed or absorbed into other cases. These cases claim the products are defective or dangerous but may not necessarily claim injuries.

  • April 2014
    California Talc Class Action – Mona Estrada claimed Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about the cancer risk of its talc products. A California federal judge moved the case to New Jersey making it part of the MDL underway there. A New Jersey federal judge dismissed Estrada’s claim in 2017 saying she did not suffer an actual injury.
  • September 2015
    Illinois Talc Class Action – Barbara Mihalich filed a class action suit claiming Johnson & Johnson profited unjustly from its talcum products. The case, including others who had signed onto it, was transferred to the New Jersey MDL in October 2016.
  • February 2018
    New Jersey Federal Class Action – Investors filed a class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. They accused the company of failing to disclose that its talcum powder products carried risks of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
  • June 2018
    Missouri Class Action – Cynthia Gibson, Heidi Amiro, Lois Arnstein and other plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit claims exposure to talc, asbestos and other carcinogens in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower led to ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs say Johnson & Johnson failed to warn of the cancer risk.
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Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for seven years. She specializes in fluoroquinolone antibiotics, vaccines and products that affect women’s health such as Essure birth control, transvaginal mesh and talcum powder. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
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Kevin Connolly
Kevin Connolly Managing Editor
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38 Cited Research Articles

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