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Johnson & Johnson's $65 Million Baby Powder Verdict

Studies have been around for decades reporting a link between the female hygienic use of talcum powder products and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Concerns about the carcinogenic effect of talc-based products like Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower recently culminated in a $65 million verdict against the manufacturer. Bloomberg reported the massive verdict represents the third consecutive defeat in a wave of product liability lawsuits against the pharmaceutical giant. In this blog post, our Miami product liability attorneys analyze the outcome and significance of these large judgments against Johnson & Johnson (J&J). 

Deborah Giannecchini used J&J's baby powder for feminine hygiene for over four decades according to a media report. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years before the verdict. Despite the plaintiff reportedly having undergone chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, she faces an 80 percent probability of dying during the next two year. The plaintiff provided evidence that included thirty years of studies revealing an increased risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talc for feminine hygiene. The plaintiff contended that the company was aware of the risk and that the public did not know that talc products are linked to ovarian cancer.

A juror who talked to the media after the verdict indicated that J&J should have provided a warning on the label of the talc products warning of the risk of ovarian cancer. According to the juror, "It seemed Johnson & Johnson didn't pay attention. It seemed liked they didn't care."

The November $65 million verdict follows a $55 million verdict in May and a $72 million verdict in February. The first major verdict was filed by the family of Jacqueline Fox who passed away in October 2015. Evidence presented at the trial revealed that the decedent had used J&J talc products daily for 35 years for feminine hygiene. According to a news report, J&J is on the hook for $195 million in these three initial verdicts with nearly 2,500 pending lawsuits filed by other women who developed ovarian cancer after prolonged regular use of J&J talc-based products. There are currently 300 lawsuits pending in Los Angeles and 200 in New Jersey state courts. There also are a rising number of cases pending in federal court.

Although a New Jersey state court judge threw out two cases based on the contention the evidence linking J&J talc products to ovarian cancer lacked sufficient scientific support, three large verdicts in a row might motivate J&J to discuss settling pending ovarian cancer cases. However, a J&J spokesman points to the two dismissed cases in support of the company's decision to appeal the recent verdict.

Manufacturers of products that cause harm to purchasers can be liable for injuries and illnesses caused by the intended use of their products. Manufacturers of products have a legal responsibility to ensure their products do not harm their customers when used properly and to warn consumers of the potential risk of injury or death from their products. These cases are extremely complex because they often involve complex scientific studies, well-funded defendants, and large verdicts that will be challenged on appeal.

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